Bridges to Better Care

Dr. Carl Tyler and Dr. Sandra Snyder won a Caregiver Catalyst Grant to develop educational materials and resources about interacting with adults who have intellectual and developmental disabilities

Antoine Smith, right, a patient with autism, appears in a video created to help healthcare professionals improve interactions with adults who have intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Dr. Carl Tyler and Dr. Sandra Snyder

The Caregiver Catalyst Grant enabled us to develop resources that caregivers can utilize to improve the quality of care they provide to persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities, their families and their other caregivers. These resources will also help train the future healthcare workforce to provide respectful, equitable healthcare to this underserved population.”

— DR. CARL TYLER AND DR. SANDRA SNYDER | “Building Bridges” co-founders

The Facts

Approximately 7 million people are living with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) in the United States. Although each individual with IDD is unique, and care of patients with IDD requires knowledge of certain conditions, the healthcare considerations for this population are readily identifiable. Healthcare workers should be well-equipped with this knowledge to provide excellent care to a growing population of patients with IDD.

The Need

Patients with IDD — which includes those diagnosed with Down syndrome, autism spectrum disorder or cerebral palsy — often experience suboptimal care. Health professionals receive little training on how to care for this population, and health systems are poorly connected to the complex network of community services available to people with IDD.


Cleveland Clinic’s CAREGIVER CATALYST GRANTS pool donations to fund the brightest ideas from our caregivers to improve patient outcomes and experiences. To date, more than 145 grants have been awarded, representing a total of $6.3 million in support.

The Idea

Carl Tyler, MD, and Sandra Snyder, DO, received a Caregiver Catalyst Grant in 2020 for their “Building Bridges” project. The goal? Develop educational resources for interacting with adults with IDD, in consultation with people with IDD and community organizations that serve them. Dr. Tyler and Dr. Snyder sought to train caregivers in disabilities etiquette and respectful, patient-centered communication that recognizes the diversity and dignity of individuals in the IDD community, who in turn can teach health systems a great deal about providing more respectful, comprehensive and effective care.

The Impact

The “Building Bridges” team produced an educational video in which adults with IDD and their caregivers share stories about interactions with healthcare professionals. Created in collaboration with the Center for Excellence in Healthcare Communication, the video highlights behaviors that build strong connections with patients. Dr. Tyler and Dr. Snyder also have developed print literature, including clinical assessment tools and a pre-visit phone template for gathering critical information about new patients with IDD. The team is working with Michael Nelson, PhD, and Laura Greenwald, MBA, MEd, on an e-learning module about better care for the IDD population.

Adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their caregivers share stories about their interactions with healthcare professionals.