Nav: Home

Autism care improved, diagnosis time shortened by new MU program

May 31, 2016

COLUMBIA, Mo. - Wait lists for a specialist to confirm an autism diagnosis can be agonizing and last months. As the prevalence of autism and autism spectrum disorders increase, so does the demand for a health care system that is fully equipped to respond to the complex needs associated with autism. Now, Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes (ECHO) Autism, a new program from the University of Missouri, is training primary care providers in best-practice care for autism spectrum disorders. Initial results of the pilot program found significant improvements in primary care provider confidence in screening and management of autism and in utilization of specific tools and resources.

"We are very excited about the initial results from the ECHO Autism model," said Kristin Sohl, associate professor of child health and the director of ECHO Autism. "Children with autism can show symptoms as early as 12 months; however, in too many cases children may not receive a diagnosis until they are 5 years old. Early diagnosis is critical for children with autism, and primary care providers play an important role in that initial process."

The ECHO model connects primary care providers to academic medical centers using videoconferencing technology. This allows one-on-one training in diagnosis, screenings, treatment protocols and care management. The ECHO model was created by Sanjeev Arora, MD, from the University of New Mexico and first demonstrated effectiveness in improving outcomes for hepatitis C and has expanded to address other complex medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and addiction. Now, MU researchers have developed the first ECHO model to be applied to the care of children with autism in an effort to reduce disparities for underserved and rural children and their families.

"Currently there are not enough specialists to manage the number of children with autism who need health care," said Micah Mazurek, assistant professor of health psychology in the School of Health Professions and lead author of the study. "A real need exists to assist community-based health care providers as they help families get the answers they need without traveling or waiting to see a specialist. Preliminary data from the pilot program suggests ECHO Autism can help with that issue."

ECHO Autism clinics are conducted using high-quality secure video conferencing technology to connect participating primary care clinics to a panel of experts based at the MU Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders. The panel includes a pediatrician specializing in ASD, a clinical psychologist, a child and adolescent psychiatrist, a dietician, a social worker, and a parent of a child with autism. The primary care providers maintain responsibility for care of their patients using the expert panel to build skills and discuss issues.

In testing the pilot, researchers found that participating primary care providers demonstrated significant improvements in confidence across all domains of health care for children with autism--screening and identification, assessment and treatment of medical and psychiatric conditions, and knowledge of and referral to available resources. Future research on ECHO Autism is being conducted through the Autism Intervention Research Network for Physical Health and will expand the reach of the program to 10 additional academic centers connecting with primary care providers across the US and Canada.

ECHO Autism is a partnership between the MU Thompson Center for Autism, MU Health and the Missouri Telehealth Network Show-Me ECHO program. The study, "ECHO Autism: A New Model for Training Primary Care Providers in Best-Practice Care for Children with Autism," was published in Clinical Pediatrics. The program received financial support from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network, the Leda J. Sears Charitable Trust and the WellCare Innovation Institute.

-end-



University of Missouri-Columbia
Genes, ozone, and autism
Exposure to ozone in the environment puts individuals with high levels of genetic variation at an even higher risk for developing autism than would be expected just by adding the two risk factors together, a new analysis shows.
A blood test for autism
An algorithm based on levels of metabolites found in a blood sample can accurately predict whether a child is on the autism spectrum of disorder (ASD), based upon a recent study.
New form of autism found
Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) affect around one percent of the world's population and are characterized by a range of difficulties in social interaction and communication.
Autism Speaks MSSNG study expands understanding of autism's complex genetics
A new study from Autism Speaks' MSSNG program expands understanding of autism's complex causes and may hold clues for the future development of targeted treatments.
Paths to Autism: One or Many?
A new report in Biological Psychiatry reports that brain alterations in infants at risk for autism may be widespread and affect multiple systems, in contrast to the widely held assumption of impairment specifically in social brain networks.
Raising a child with autism
Humans are resilient, even facing the toughest of life's challenges.
Explaining autism
Recognizing a need to better understand the biology that produces Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) symptoms, scientists at Duke-NUS Medical School (Duke-NUS) and the National Neuroscience Institute (NNI), Singapore, have teamed up and identified a novel mechanism that potentially links abnormal brain development to the cause of ASDs.
Autism breakthrough
Using a visual test that is known to prompt different reactions in autistic and normal brains, Harvard researchers have shown that those differences were associated with a breakdown in the signaling pathway used by GABA, one of the brain's chief inhibitory neurotransmitters.
New options for treating autism
The release of oxytocin leads to an increase in the production of anandamide, which causes mice to display a preference for interacting socially.
The Autism Science Foundation launches the Autism Sisters Project
The Autism Science Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting and funding autism research, today announced the launch of the Autism Sisters Project, a new initiative that will give unaffected sisters of individuals with autism the opportunity to take an active role in accelerating research into the 'Female Protective Effect.'

Best Science Podcasts 2017

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2017. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.

Now Playing: Radiolab

Truth Trolls
Today, a third story of folks relentlessly searching for the truth. But this time, the truth seekers are an unlikely bunch... internet trolls.


Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Rethinking School
For most of modern history, humans have placed smaller humans in institutions called schools. But what parts of this model still work? And what must change? This hour, TED speakers rethink education.TED speakers include teacher Tyler DeWitt, social entrepreneur Sal Khan, international education expert Andreas Schleicher, and educator Linda Cliatt-Wayman.