""Disability awareness and training are a must for medical professionals to adequately meet the individual needs of patients.""

About: Morgan (age 23)

Age Range: 22 to 35 years

County: Davidson


Tammy and her husband have been happily married for 31 years and have two daughters. Their daughter Morgan is 23-years-old and has autism spectrum disorder. The Vice family lives in the Nashville area.

In terms of access to a health care professional, Morgan was fortunate to have a pediatrician with whom she had a great relationship. However, the family faced numerous challenges in the transition from pediatric to adult health care services. To start, neither the family nor the pediatrician could identify a medical professional to whom Morgan might transition.

"It's frustrating that there are not more doctors and specialists who have experience working with adults with autism," said Tammy. "Knowing that our daughter needed treatment and medications, and not being able to find a provider who could meet her needs and who would take our insurance before medications ran out, was very stressful. Parents should not have to worry about that."

Morgan's first experience with adult health care was with a provider and staff who appeared to have no training or experience in treating patients on the autism spectrum. They did not communicate with Morgan directly. They spoke about her and treated her as if she wasn't there. Tammy says their interactions were fraught with stereotyped assumptions about autism, and about Morgan's behaviors and movements. One remark she remembers well was, "They all rock like that."

"Let's just say that we did not go back," said Tammy. "I didn't know how important it was to have a medical professional who saw Morgan as a person with individual needs, a professional who respected our experience and self-knowledge, until we didn't have that anymore. Disability awareness and training are a must for medical professionals to adequately meet the individual needs of patients.

Updated on Wednesday, January 10, 2018