How One Compassionate Doctor Made a Difference

Would you like to impact healthcare for people with IDD and autism for decades?

My son Neil has profound autism. While he is nonverbal, he communicates through his behavior.

When Neil was 14, he was in terrible distress, crying, clearly in pain, and trying to hurt himself. In the emergency department waiting room, Neil screamed and lashed out at me and his father.

Another patient stood up. With his finger pointing at me, he yelled, “You ought to have to put a muzzle on that thing!

Every bit of strength drained out of me. How will I get Neil through life, if we can’t even get through today? What happened next calmed my fears and gave me hope.

A doctor who overheard the comment escorted that patient to a different waiting area. He then came over to Neil and leaned down. Holding Neil’s hands, he calmly said, “I am so sorry that you are hurting and I am so sorry that you have to wait. But I am going to help you and I am going to help your mom and dad, because you deserve it.”

People in the waiting room were paying attention to the doctor’s kindness and concern. One mother asked if Neil wanted to borrow her daughter’s toy. Another person called the man who had made the comment a bully. The nurses and other staff asked how they could make Neil more comfortable.

Soon, Neil calmed down.

To this day, I am so grateful for that doctor. By modeling compassionate care, he changed the atmosphere and the perceptions of both patients and medical staff from hostile and intolerant to caring and empathic. He became Neil’s champion.

I felt strong again and ready to advocate for my son.

As the director of The Arc of Massachusetts’ program Operation House Call (OHC), I help raise the bar for all healthcare professionals. We are educating future doctors and nurses on best practices for caring for people who have autism or intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and breaking down the biases that prevent people with IDD from getting the care they need – and the care they deserve.

OHC is making healthcare more equitable for a vulnerable and marginalized population.

Medical professionals have the power to change health outcomes and fundamentally improve the lives of people with IDD and autism.

You have power, too.

By giving to The Arc of Massachusetts, you can make OHC’s training program available at medical and nursing schools across the state. The ripple effect of this program will continue for decades to come. Your gift also will support The Arc’s advocacy for health equity, for increased funding to reverse the workforce shortage, and for policies that enhance the lives of people with IDD.

Please give today. You make change possible.

Give to support healthcare advocacy for people with IDD.




Maura Sullivan
Senior Director of Government Affairs and Health Policy

P.S. You can impact hundreds of thousands of lives by supporting The Arc of Massachusetts. Don’t let people with IDD and autism and their families feel the fear and isolation of intolerance. The Arc is working every day across all aspects of society for inclusion, equity, and opportunity. Join us!