The prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) has risen markedly over recent years and is now a preeminent national public health concern (Healthy People 2020). Individuals with ASD exhibit deficits in social interactions and verbal and nonverbal communication, and exhibit repetitive behaviors/interests (CDC, 2011) that persist over a lifetime. As a result, demands of caregiving for individuals with ASD place heavy burdens on families that must provide long-term care. Because many popular ASD interventions are not evidence-based, families need guidance in identifying and accessing evidence-based interventions. This is particularly true for families in rural areas that lack the most up-to-date resources and thus are more likely to use non-evidence-based interventions that can be harmful.
Our goal is to empower, expand, and enhance the advisory and Community Autism Research Engagement (CARE) groups that were developed in Tiers 1 and 2 to develop a fundable comparative effectiveness research (CER) proposal(s). To accomplish this we will (1) directly involve CARE and Community Advisory Board members in assessing feasibility and desirability of proposed interventions for the CER, (2) engage these members in identifying potential research participants and developing recruitment strategies for the CER project, and (3) enhance an effective and sustainable method of communicating educational and empirically sound research findings to the community partners and wider national network through our website and other state-of-the-art technology. The long-term goal is to improve the quality of life for individuals with ASD by enhancing early diagnosis and implementing the most current evidence-based treatments.