Saturday, May 22, 2010
Franklin Hall B Level 4 (Philadelphia Marriott Downtown)10:00 AM
Background: Very little formal data exists regarding the state of personnel preparation and family service support training in autism. For example, according to a report from the National Research Council (NRC; 2001), not much is known about the number of autism specialists who are trained annually, how many autism personnel preparation programs operate, or which professional disciplines are involved in autism training either in the U.S. or Canada. Understanding the state of personnel preparation and service support training for individuals with autism and their families across the multiple disciplines who provide supports, is the first step in ensuring that the provision of service is adequate and that identified gaps in service are addressed. Objectives: The objective of this study was to conduct a needs assessment to identify the local service and training needs for families and individuals with autism. Three smaller goals were to document: 1) the scope of the problem; 2) the stakeholder perceived adequacy and availability of training programs; and 3) the needed training content and acceptable training methods. Methods: This assessment included an online survey (i.e., Survey Monkey) of the nature of the unmet training needs of families and service providers and series of focus groups to identify the range of content and the acceptable delivery models by group. Participants: A representative sample of family, clinicians, educators, and community service providers of individuals with autism. Results: Two hundred and seven parents and 337 service providers completed the online survey. One third of the participants from rural settings and the remaining from urban locales described training needs for individuals with mild to severe autism across the lifespan. Parents indicated highest satisfaction with early intervention providers and lowest satisfaction with adult services, both diagnostic and intervention. Priority areas of training were identified across diagnosis, early intervention, and school age and adult services. Over the course of eight focus groups in six communities, 48 parents and service providers described a lack of accountability and standards in services. They emphasized the need for a central resource hub, preferably staffed, to obtain information and training. Two types of training were identified: knowledge of the ‘basics' and in depth training and coaching in skills to facilitate learning and support. Conclusions: This study revealed that parents and service providers have multiple needs in regard to training to support individuals with autism. While they indicated that many workshops and short-courses were available, especially for service providers in early intervention, there is limited co-ordination among training agencies/institutions and few training opportunities to provide the knowledge and skills needed to feel competent in service provision. Further research is needed to enhance understanding of models of training that will meet the diverse service and family needs to support individuals with autism.