Developing a Comprehensive Evidence-Based Service Package for Toddlers with Autism in a Low Resource Setting: Early Detection, Early Intervention, and Care Coordination
Objective: The number of children with autism, who have many unmet needs, is increasing dramatically. However, the existing evidence shows that early identification and intervention are effective in reducing the later costs and burdens of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Thus, the present study aimed to develop evidence-based services for children with autism in Iran to reduce its impacts on the affected children and their families and to decrease its burden on the society.
Method: A 3-step study was conducted based on a modification of the Replicating Effective Programs (REP) framework (step 1: need assessment and situation analysis; step 2: identifying current evidence-based services; step 3: designing the first draft of the package and its core elements). Each step was conducted by a specific methodology.
Results: By considering the obtained data, it was found that a package of services with 4 core components to respond to the perceived needs in Iran was needed: (1) early detection of at-risk children; (2) care coordination and facilitation of access to current services; (3) implementation of an evidence-based early intervention program; and (4) training interventionists using an effective educational framework based on evidence-based material.
Conclusion: REP framework was used in the present study, which has been shown to be effective in adapting and implementing health care services. By considering the preconditions of REP, a comprehensive package of services, with 4 components was designed for toddlers with autism in Iran. The next step will be to study this package using a multicenter hybrid effectiveness-implementation randomized control trial.
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