AIR-B Network Staying Strong

April 112, 2020

Every year, the Autism Intervention Research Network on Behavioral Health (AIR-B Network; PI: Connie Kasari) partners get together for their annual leadership meeting and on the following day, they host a free autism conference for families. This year, the COVID-19 pandemic drastically changed plans for the five universities of the network - UCLA, UC Davis, University of Pennsylvania, University of Rochester, and Drexel University. UCLA, this year's hosting site, decided with their local community partners to indefinitely postpone the conference, which usually attracts over 200 people. And for the first time, the leadership meeting was held entirely virtually. On Thursday, March 19th, all members of the network, including principal investigators, post-doctorate scholars, graduate students, research assistants, community members, and HRSA project officers participated in the virtual meeting to discuss the network's main intervention studies, Mind the Gap and Building Better Bridges.

Both studies involved multiple phases including already published data on focus groups, and pilot studies. The last phase involved large randomized-controlled trials that were developed in partnership with each university's community partners. Building Better Bridges aims to help students of autism have a more successful transition from preschool to kindergarten, elementary to middle school, or middle to high school through parent training and tools created as part of the study. The goal of Mind the Gap is to help parents of children with a recent diagnosis of autism navigate the service system by providing them with video modules and infographics on various topics. Each treatment group participant is paired with a peer coach, who is an experienced parent of children with autism and has received training from the research team. Some of the peer coaches also attended the leadership meeting to share their experiences of helping families in a research context and to provide suggestions to the research team. Preliminary data for both studies were presented, and the meeting ended with breakout groups to discuss publications for these studies and plans for future grants.

This long, productive day was not without difficulties though - delays were caused by technical glitches, sometimes requiring coordinated efforts from the team to solve. On the other hand, unexpected but very welcome appearances of team members' baby and pets provided a nice relief from hours of meetings. It was definitely different from past years' meetings, but the AIR-B Network successfully accomplished the goals aimed for this meeting and the year ahead, and its partnership remained strong.

 

In 2019, the AIR-B Network gathered at the Holman United Methodist Church in Los Angeles, CA; due to COVID-19, the team held its annual leadership meeting virtually this year.

In 2019, the AIR-B Network gathered at the Holman United Methodist Church in Los Angeles, CA; due to COVID-19, the team held its annual leadership meeting virtually this year.