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Autism Grant Aims to Improve Schools Practices

$1.4 million grant from the Institute of Education Sciences

(Sacramento, Calif)- The UC Davis MIND Institute has received a 3-year, $1.4 million grant to study how to build a statewide network to improve use of evidence-based practices for students with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs).

The grant, from the Institute of Education Sciences, will provide data that will help determine how state, district and school policies and programs influence access to and effectiveness of teacher training in evidence-based practices. The researchers hope to use the data to help policy makers and administrators make changes that improve teacher training and effectively use evidence-based practices for ASDs and more generally.

Aubyn Stahmer, professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and director of community-based treatment research at the MIND Institute, is the study's principal investigator. Jessica Suhrheinrich, of San Diego State University, will serve as co-principal investigator. The California Autism Professional Training and Information Network (CAPTAIN), a multi-agency network developed to support the use of evidence-based practices for people affected by ASDs in California, is the community leader guiding the project. Patricia Schetter of the MIND Institute's Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities and project coordinator for the statewide CAPTAIN, will manage the project.

"We know that evidence-based practices are important to address a range of complications of autism spectrum disorders, but these interventions are not consistently or effectively used," Stahmer said. "And while special education programs are required to use evidence-based practices to address students' education goals, there are few implementation methods available to help them meet this requirement. This project has implications for improving care for students with ASDs and for developing a system to scale up effective interventions in schools more generally."

In collaboration with CAPTAIN, researchers will use focus groups, surveys and social network interviews to measure the culture, climate, leadership, communication and readiness of educators to implement evidence-based practices in their schools and districts. Their goal is to create a framework for the development of a statewide system to improve implementation of these practices for students with autism spectrum disorders.

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