For a better experience, click the Compatibility Mode icon above to turn off Compatibility Mode, which is only for viewing older websites.

Ellen Giarelli Changes Healthcare for Patients with ASD

October 15, 2014

Ellen GiarelliEllen Giarelli, PhD, an associate professor in the Doctor of Nursing Practice Department at the Drexel University College of Nursing and Health Professions, is an expert in strategies for public health surveillance of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and through her work has offered innovative alternatives to better care for the needs of people living with ASD.

Giarelli’s ASD work began at the University of Pennsylvania, where she served as Principal Investigator for the Pennsylvania Autism and Development Disabilities Surveillance Program (PADDSP), which was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One of her responsibilities was to generate statistics surrounding ASD, such as the rate of prevalence in a particular demographic.

When Giarelli became the Principal Investigator for PADDSP and thus also more interested in the data that could be gathered about the disorder, she began to think of ways in which she could fuse the nursing profession together with epidemiology. Giarelli said that when it comes to the care of those on the spectrum, most of the work, studies, and treatments thus far have come from field of education. This is because persons with ASD were historically diagnosed as students and their schools needed to quickly determine the best ways to teach them. Very little attention was paid to the rest of the care that they need,” elaborated Giarelli. “When they break an arm or need surgery, healthcare professionals need to understand how to interact with them and to adapt their care. It became apparent that nobody was focused on that.” Giarelli began working to identify ways to think about and prepare nurses to care for a population of persons experiencing health problems who also have Autism.

Giarelli is also the coordinator of the newly launched Certificate Program in the Integrated Nursing Care of People with ASD at Drexel. The Certificate Program, offered exclusively online, focuses specifically on the integrated care of the complex health problems of people affected by ASD, as well as on the collaboration that occurs among patients, families, and healthcare providers.  Giarelli was co-editor of a book published in April 2012 titled Nursing of Autism Spectrum Disorder: Evidence-based Integrated Care Across the Lifespan.

Giarelli is responsible for hosting the upcoming autism conference at Drexel on November 8. Under her leadership and through close collaboration with colleagues from the Drexel College of Nursing and Health Professions, Drexel Online, and the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute, Creating Integrated Healthcare for People with Autism Spectrum Disorder will bring together many of the top minds in the field of ASD research and healthcare delivery.

By Mahmoud Shurbaji ‘15