Equipping Community Based Psychologists to Deliver Best Practice ASD Diagnoses Using The ECHO Autism Model

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Timely diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is paramount to ensuring access to evidence-based intervention for individuals with ASD and their families, but the receipt of ASD diagnoses continues to be delayed. Nationwide, demand for appropriately trained healthcare providers has outpaced availability with many families unable to access timely care. This is particularly evident in underserved (e.g., rural, lower socioeconomic) populations. The current project used a quasi-experimental design to test an innovative model (i.e., ECHO Autism: Diagnostics) designed to educate, train, and mentor community-based psychologists (CBPs) serving families in Missouri. ECHO Autism: Diagnostics was designed to increase the number of CBPs who are knowledgeable in ASD and equipped to work with families seeking ASD-specific evaluations. Nine CBPs representing unique rural geographies from across Missouri completed this pilot project. Results indicated significant improvement in participants’ self-efficacy related to working with individuals with ASD. Participants also reported significant improvement in self-efficacy related to recognizing red flags of ASD and administering the ADOS-2. CBPs who participated in the project demonstrated increased ASD knowledge and perceived fewer barriers to caring for individuals with ASD in their practice. Results from this project suggest that the ECHO Autism: Diagnostics model may be a feasible and potentially scalable means of reducing disparate access to ASD-diagnostic evaluations.