CAPTAIN: A Model for Implementing Systems Change

April 20, 2016

The California Autism Professional Training and Information Network (CAPTAIN) is a statewide network created to support the understanding and use of evidence-based practices (EBPs) for individuals affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). This multi-agency group was established as a result of California's participation in the CDC's Act Early Regional Summit in 2009 where standardized training, dissemination and implementation of EBPs in autism was identified as a priority for the state. With subsequent funding from OSEP's National Professional Development Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders (NPDC - ASD) Training and Technical Assistance Grant in 2010-2012, six demonstration sites throughout the state were trained in the 24 (later 27) EBPs verified by NPDC -ASD to be effective for this population.

With big dreams of scaling up training from six model school sites to the entire state, CAPTAIN was created to: (1) Increase awareness of ASD and EBPs through systematic information dissemination; (2) Increase implementation of EBPs in schools and community settings; and (3) Increase interagency communication and collaboration to leverage resources and support critical transition periods, including early identification, Part C to Part B, and from school to adult services.

CAPTAIN utilizes a train-the-trainers model and members are tasked with providing local training and implementation coaching in order to increase knowledge and fidelity of practice for the 27 NPDC-ASD identified EBPs. Annual educational summits are held (one in northern and one in southern California) to provide educational, legislative, and research updates. Regional groups share training resources with other regions, and agencies within each geographic region meet to collaborate and plan the year's activities for their catchment area. Throughout the year, all participants are required to engage in a designated number of intra-agency and inter-agency trainings to disseminate the EBPs and/or conduct services utilizing the EBPs in ASD. A CAPTAIN website ( was created to facilitate access to critical training resources for members and the community.

CAPTAIN is now in its 3rd year and has over 400 members throughout the state, having representation from the school district SELPAs (local special education regions), Department of Disability Services Regional Centers, and the network of Family Resource Centers/Family Empowerment Centers. All 58 counties in the state are represented. Members are a highly educated group with over 74% with a Master's degree and 12% with a doctorate; over 50% have been in the field for 15 years or longer. The top 4 job descriptions of members are ASD program specialists, behavior analysts, special education teachers and school psychologists.

In addition to the trainings, CAPTAIN collects data on training outcomes of its members. Preserving implementation fidelity of EBP usage was a rare event at baseline. Results suggested that the majority of members have good knowledge of EBPs in autism, but few practice a standardized protocol for implementation and even fewer have an evaluation process in place. To ensure consistent fidelity of EBPs in autism, this process of assessing content mastery, implementation fidelity, and evaluation outcome, has been the focus of all 3 CAPTAIN summit trainings.

As part of the CAPTAIN mission, information dissemination about our implementation model for EBPs in autism, has been a priority. Both process and outcome findings have been presented at local, state and regional conferences and state level departmental meetings. Presentations and poster sessions have been given at the MCHB Autism CARES and AUCD annual meetings, and have involved CA-LEND faculty and trainees who have collaborated on CAPTAIN for their leadership projects.

Future planning includes broadening the scope of the statewide CAPTAIN network trainings and regional planning groups to include adult service providers and higher education. Even in a state as large and diverse as California, CAPTAIN is an exemplary real world model for expanding standardized EBPs in autism.

For additional information on this project, contact:
Patrice Yasuda, PhD, CA-LEND, USC UCEDD, Interdisciplinary Training Director
Ananda Aspen, MA, CA Department of Education, Educational Specialist or
Patricia Schetter, MA, BCBA, CEDD at UC Davis MIND Institute, Project Director.