AIR-B Engages Community to Bring Evidence Supported Interventions to Children with ASD and their Families

December 15, 2015

The Autism Intervention Research Network for Behavioral Health (AIR-B) is led by researchers from several universities, with UCLA as the primary coordinating site. Over the last seven years, the AIR-B team has forged partnerships with school district and health care professionals across the country with the goal of bringing effective treatments into the community settings where children with autism spectrum disorder spend the most time. We continue this goal in the new AIR-B grant.

Our focus is on families with children with autism living in under-resourced contexts who must navigate the complex world of evaluations, diagnoses, interventions and resources. Over the next 5 years, our AIR-B team will conduct research, develop tools, and disseminate information into the community.

We have proposed two research studies. We recognize that the process of screening, evaluation and treatment for children with autism can be long and arduous, especially for families in under-resourced settings. In our first study, Mind the Gap, we will explore the causes of this delay. We will then help facilitate the process of getting services and try to lessen the gap between identification and service access. This support will be provided in families' native languages and, through the use of phone and video technology, allowing busy families to access support on their own schedule.

Our second study, Building Better Bridges, will address the needs of children who are transitioning to new stages of schooling. Moving on from early intervention to elementary school, or subsequently from elementary to secondary school, can be worrying and stressful to both children with autism and their parents. Through Building Better Bridges, we will tackle the obstacles complicating these transitions. Our research groups will work together to provide interventions that will help make the transitions easier.

For both studies, we will work with local community partners, regional centers, school districts, and parents of children with ASD. Our AIR-B research partner, Healthy African American Families (HAAF), a community based non-profit health agency led by Loretta Jones, CEO will help us design interventions that are culturally tailored and effective for the participants in each of our communities.

Our team has already started to work on these projects. We held a community conference of over 250 community members in South Los Angeles in November 2015 to increase autism awareness and share information with the community. Additionally, the research team participated in an intensive training in community engagement to ensure the bidirectional sharing of information. We gained important feedback on our proposed studies and will continue to obtain community input through focus groups and interviews over the next several months. We look forward to collaborating with our diverse communities to learn more about how to bring evidence supported interventions to families and children with ASD and particularly to those with the most unmet need.