The primary goal of AIR-B II is to a) better understand how schools currently assist students with ASD, b) use this knowledge to adjust current treatments and inform new ones, and c) move evidence-based interventions into the practice setting. We developed a 3-year study to gather and disseminate our findings.
The majority of school-aged children with ASD spend much of their day in public school, making it an important consideration in treatment development. With the largest school districts in major urban centers that tend to be low income, there is often limited capacity to deliver effective ASD interventions – the interventions are complicated to deliver, intensive, and expensive. If we are to improve access to interventions and increase the diversity of study participants, it is essential that we identify effective and sustainable ways to implement interventions in community settings. This study lays the groundwork for large, well-designed randomized clinical trials to test the effectiveness of interventions in public schools, and will serve as a model for other effectiveness implementation studies.
In the first phase of AIR-B II, each site worked their local community to assess the current practices of ASD treatments in large urban school districts.
Establishing Focus Groups
In 2012, we conducted focus groups and town hall meetings with parents, teachers, school staff members, and paraprofessionals to better understand how urban schools meet the needs of students with ASD. Over the course of a year, we worked collaboratively with these educators, gathering information, identifying challenges, and discussing ideas for treatment modifications and new services.
We also partnered with school districts to gather de-identified data concerning students with autism. The AIR-B II Network requested access to three public school districts’ special education records for all students with ASD ages 3 to 22 receiving special education services under the eligibility of ASD over a 5-year period (2008-2012). To give an idea of the scope of this project, there are 12,000 children with ASD in the LAUSD school district alone, 91% of whom are in minority groups and 80% of whom are part of a free or reduced lunch program. With this information, we are able to get a better understanding of the current practices and services being provided.
The information gathered from the focus groups and data archive offer valuable insight into the modifications necessary for school-based treatments.
Phase 2: Deployment
Based on preliminary analysis of these findings in Phase 1, the AIR-B II team identified two priorities for intervention: (1) increasing social engagement among students with ASD who are included in general education settings for most of the school day and (2) improving behavior and transitions among students with ASD in special education classrooms. We designed two interventions to address these needs: Remaking Recess and STAT. These interventions are currently being deployed simultaneously in participating schools across three urban school districts: UCLA in is partnership with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), University of Pennsylvania with the Philadelphia School District, and University of Rochester with the Rochester Central School District (Rochester CSD).