International Meeting for Autism Research: Earliest Intervention for Young Children with Risk for Autism: What Community Providers and Families Value

Earliest Intervention for Young Children with Risk for Autism: What Community Providers and Families Value

Friday, May 21, 2010
Franklin Hall B Level 4 (Philadelphia Marriott Downtown)
11:00 AM
E. L. Lee , Child and Adolescent Services Research Center, Rady Children's Hospital, San Diego, San Diego, CA
A. Stahmer , Child and Adolescent Services Research Center, Rady Children's Hospital, San Diego, CA
K. L. Searcy , Rady Children's Hospital, San Diego, San Diego, CA
L. Cervantes , Rady Children's Hospital, San Diego, San Diego, CA
Background: Increasing numbers of children with communication and relationship disorders, including autism, are identified at early ages and represent a significant public health challenge.  Few studies of intervention programs exist, however, that address social-communicative issues in infants and toddlers.  Additionally, dissemination of existing programs to community settings has been limited. 

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) called for early intervention programming directed toward preventing later mental and developmental disorders with an emphasis of the need to develop preventative interventions using comprehensive community models to promote healthy development.  The current project involves a consortium of community practitioners, funding agencies, researchers and families of children presenting with risk for autism, working together to select an efficacious preventative intervention that meets the needs of very young children and their families in a Southern Californian community.

Objectives: To obtain community feedback in an effort to select an evidence-based intervention to implement in the community, and examine the perspectives of parents and intervention providers regarding the use of evidence-based, parent-implemented interventions for 12-24 month old children at risk for disorders of relating and communicating, such as autism.

Methods: Ten early intervention providers and 10 parents of children diagnosed with autism in Southern California participated in four focus group meetings to discuss the efficacy of early intervention services for children between 12 and 24 months, issues they consider when choosing specific techniques, obstacles to providing/obtaining early intervention, and philosophies of what an ideal early intervention program would look like. After attending presentations from three intervention developers, participants met in their focus groups to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each intervention and how each intervention measured up to the factors identified as important for early intervention. Descriptive analysis and the constant comparative method were used to compare themes and perspectives across each intervention discussion.

Results: Preliminary analysis of the first three focus groups show a great deal of overlap between parent and provider perspectives. Both groups believe it is important for intervention to start as early as possible, be individualized for the child/family, but also be comprehensive.  Both stated that interventions must be evidence-based; however they were more influenced by the intervention presenters’ method of presenting evidence than the scientific strength of the evidence given.  Parents and providers did have some areas where their focus was different. Parents wanted more flexibility in choosing their provider, wanted opportunities to include siblings in the intervention, and wanted more support in understanding and navigating potential diagnoses and services.  Providers wanted comprehensive training, on-going supervision, and use of coaching and video feedback techniques as part of training.  Additional data from the third intervention and methods for choosing the appropriate intervention will be completed in December, 2009.

Conclusions: Participants are open and willing to discuss their beliefs and address the strengths and weaknesses of parent-implemented intervention.  Additionally, there were many areas of congruence between providers, parents and research findings. Implications for community collaborative research and implementation of evidence-based practice are discussed.

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