Increasing numbers of children with ASD are identified and represent a significant public health challenge. Although increasing numbers of intervention efficacy studies exist, dissemination of these interventions to community settings has been extremely limited. The use of participatory or collaborative models to develop effective interventions for the target service context is congruent with a recent call for a paradigm shift in how intervention research for the ASD population is conducted. Given the status of the evidence and community need for guidelines on how to work with children with ASD in community service settings, a collaborative approach among researchers and other ASD stakeholders is a promising method to ensure research-based practices are translated in a timely manner for these families.
Two projects will be discussed, each involving using a research-community partnership approach. The first utilized a consortium of community practitioners, funding agencies, researchers and families of children with ASD, working together to select an efficacious intervention to meet the needs of very young children (12-20 months) in early intervention settings. The second involved a partnership between researchers and community mental health providers in which an evidence-based intervention protocol was developed for use in community mental health clinics serving youth with ASD (5 to 13 years). The purpose of this presentation is to (1) describe the use of RCPs to adapt evidence-based practices for use in community settings, (2) assess proximal outcomes and sustainability of the research-community partnership, and (3) discuss implications for translating evidence-based intervention for autism into the community.
Descriptions of partnership development and outcomes are framed within a conceptual framework of research-community partnership based on literature from multiple disciplines on partnership, collaboration, and knowledge exchange. Outcomes including partnership synergy, goal attainment, and sustainability of the groups were obtained through surveys and study materials (e.g., meeting sign in sheets, published papers). All surveys were administered through a web-based instrument and analyses conducted in SPSS.
Results support proximal and initial distal outcomes of both the partnerships. Specifically, data indicate that the groups exhibited high levels of partnership synergy (i.e., adhered to the participatory research elements and had strong collaborative functioning). Both groups were highly productive as indicated by attainment of all initial goals and the large number of tangible products. Participants in both groups reported that the collaborative model provided a balance between research and community input in areas of goal development, scientific activities, and funding allocation. Data indicated strong participation and sustainability.
Although demonstrating positive impacts of partnerships can be challenging, these projects provide initial empirical support for an RCP approach and support for measuring process outcomes. Proximal outcomes and initial sustainability data support the potential for future positive distal outcomes. Data support the feasibility of developing and sustaining a highly synergistic and productive group who share common goals to improve community care through the implementation of EBPs. Implications for translating EBP into community settings serving individuals with ASD will be discussed.
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