Children's Hospital Colorado
A child life specialists helps a kid listen to a stuffed animal's heartbeat with a toy stethoscope.


Children's Hospital Colorado's Adaptive Care Program is designed to improve care for children and teens with developmental and behavioral challenges. Our experts support families and children who may have a more difficult time coping and cooperating in a healthcare setting, such as patients with autism spectrum disorders, fragile X syndrome, Down syndrome or other developmental disabilities.

Here, we work with families to understand every individual patient's unique needs and devise a plan to support them throughout their visit to improve both the patient's medical care and experience. This program is available at no additional cost.

How does adaptive care work?

Many families enter our program at the recommendation of their provider. In this case, a child life specialist meets or contacts the family via telephone, ideally before their next planned visit. They'll gather information about the child's stressors, triggers, experiences, communication styles and behaviors to develop a plan for the next appointment. This plan becomes part of the child's medical record, and alerts team members whenever they access the chart.

If your family has experienced difficult visits to the doctor's office in the past, you can request assistance when making your appointment or during your visit. Please ask a team member for additional information or how to connect with a child life specialist.

What adaptive care resources will my child receive?

Once a child is enrolled in the Adaptive Care Program, we provide resources that the patient can use at home, such as:

  • Photos or a visual schedule
  • Patient visit story books (reading short stories about hospitals and doctors is a great way to introduce and prepare for appointments)

Based on the recommendations outlined in the care plan, we may also provide additional supportive care for the patient during their visit, including:

  • Tours of unfamiliar areas
  • Rehearsal of the steps of the visit
  • Distraction with items the child enjoys
  • Adapted communication
  • Modified exams

Our multidisciplinary team can also offer additional support from a child life specialist and other individualized strategies based on your child's needs.

Who can join the Adaptive Care Program?

To participate, patients must be over the age of 3 and diagnosed or evaluated for a developmental disability or behavioral condition.

Why choose the Adaptive Care Program at Children's Colorado?

Children's Colorado is proud to be one of the few hospitals in the region taking this kind of proactive approach to addressing the adaptive care needs of patients. Our goal is to provide safer, more efficient and patient-centered healthcare experiences for these kids, teens and their families.

Thanks to our Program, we've seen improved patient and family satisfaction, increases in treatment and care compliance and high engagement from both patients and providers.