Jack Bond is a Band 5 radiographer working at Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Swindon. Jack graduated from the UWE Bristol BSc (Hons) Diagnostic Imaging programme in 2017. Jack’s year three project, supervised by Senior Lecturer Donna Dimond, addressed improving communication between children with autism and radiographers. Jack’s work was rewritten for publication and was highly commended in the annual Imaging and Therapy Practice student competition. Here Jack tells us the story behind his research idea and the impact he hopes it will have on radiography practice.
Why I chose my topic
Throughout my degree, I worked with a local company teaching children science at school work shops and at events. My job helped me to develop key skills in communicating with children of all ages and abilities. While working with the schools, I would often have a child with autism within my class. Although I was previously aware that some children with autism would need extra help at times, it was not until I worked more closely with them that I realised the challenges they may face. Through talking to the children, parents and teachers, I expanded my knowledge on autism, learnt how best to communicate and adapt to meet their specific needs. As my time as a science presenter was limited to the duration of my degree, I have brought my communication and adaption techniques forward into my radiography career.
For my dissertation project, I decided to formally explore any previous research into working with children with autism in radiography, and if there are any further adaptations and techniques I can introduce.
My key findings
Unfortunately, I found minimal research directly relating to radiography. Meaning all my findings had to be generalised and adapted from other health care professions. I also found many health care professionals do not understand the specific needs children with autism may have, or how to adjust to meet those needs.
From my research, I developed a visual aid that can explain to a child and parent how a radiographic examination will proceed. The advanced preparation will eliminate the fear of the unknown for the child, minimising anxiety for the child. By knowing the steps involved in the examination, the parent and child can understand what we will need them to do. The parent can also inform the radiographer of any steps the child may find difficult, enabling the radiographer to know how to adapt for the chid. I also have created a short questionnaire the parent can fill out in the waiting room, giving simple details about their child that may be beneficial for the examination process. Questions such as if their child has had a radiographic examination in the past, if it went well, what can be done differently. On the reverse are simple tips for how best to communicate with autistic children for radiographers if they are not currently aware. Both methods are designed to be quick to use, easy to follow and be able to benefit child, parent and radiographer.
Impact on practice
I hope my research can have a positive impact within the radiography department. I have found evidence of patients with autism who are reluctant to return to a hospital because of a negative experience. I hope that by showing parents with children with autism that as radiographers, we are aware of their child’s specific needs we can create a more positive health care experience for both the child and parent.