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Developing the Autism Model of Implementation for Autism spectrum disorder community providers: study protocol

Amy Drahota12*, Gregory A Aarons23 and Aubyn C Stahmer23

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Psychology, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA, USA

2 Child and Adolescent Services Research Center, Rady Children’s Hospital, San Diego, CA, USA

3 Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA

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Implementation Science 2012, 7:85  doi:10.1186/1748-5908-7-85

Published: 10 September 2012



Currently, 1 out of 88 children are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and the estimated cost for treatment services is $126 billion annually. Typically, ASD community providers (ASD-CPs) provide services to children with any severity of ASD symptoms using a combination of various treatment paradigms, some with an evidence-base and some without. When evidence-based practices (EBPs) are successfully implemented by ASD-CPs, they can result in positive outcomes. Despite this promise, EBPs are often implemented unsuccessfully and other treatments used by ASD-CPs lack supportive evidence, especially for school-age children with ASD. While it is not well understood why ASD-CPs are not implementing EBPs, organizational and individual characteristics likely play a role. As a response to this need and to improve the lives of children with ASD and their families, this study aims to develop and test the feasibility and acceptability of the Autism Model of Implementation (AMI) to support the implementation of EBPs by ASD-CPs.


An academic-community collaboration developed to partner with ASD-CPs will facilitate the development of the AMI, a process specifically for use by ASD community-based agencies. Using a mixed methods approach, the project will assess agency and individual factors likely to facilitate or hinder implementing EBPs in this context; develop the AMI to address identified barriers and facilitators; and pilot test the AMI to examine its feasibility and acceptability using a specific EBP to treat anxiety disorders in school-age children with ASD.


The AMI will represent a data-informed approach to facilitate implementation of EBPs by ASD-CPs by providing an implementation model specifically developed for this context. This study is designed to address the real-world implications of EBP implementation in ASD community-based agencies. In doing so, the AMI will help to provide children with ASD the best and most effective services in their own community. Moreover, the proposed study will positively impact the field of implementation science by providing an empirically supported and tested model of implementation to facilitate the identification, adoption, and use of EBPs.

Autism spectrum disorder; Evidence-based practice; Implementation; Organization; Community provider; Model development