Perceived Evidence and Use of Autism Intervention Strategies in Early Intervention Providers
J Paynter, S Luskin-Saxby, D Keen, K Fordyce, G Frost, C Imms, S Miller, R Sutherland, D Trembath, Madonna Tucker, U Ecker
Background: Continued use of practices not supported by empirical evidence is an ongoing challenge in the field of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Knowledge and individual attitudes to evidence-based practice, as well as accuracy of categorization of practices on their evidence base, have been linked to practice selection in allied health professionals. This study aimed to extend this research to early intervention staff, and investigated perceived evidence base of practices, and links to intended future use, along with individual attitudes and sources of information accessed.
Method: Participants included 86 early intervention staff who completed an online survey. They rated the evidence base of six ASD intervention practices (three unsupported by research, three empirically supported), along with current and intended future use of these, as well as attitudes to research and to evidence-based practice.
Results: At a group level, participants reported using, and intending to use in future, the empirically supported practices more than unsupported practices, and generally accurately reported a higher evidence base for the empirically supported practices. However, a number of individual participants showed inaccuracy in ratings varying by practice. Perceived evidence was linked to greater intention to use practices in the future, while few links to individual attitudes were found.
Conclusions: Our findings point to the influence of perceived evidence on intended use of practices. Perceived evidence may be impacted by lack of awareness and/or misinformation regarding the evidence base of practices. The need for accurate information about both empirically supported and unsupported practices, as well as strategies to seek and evaluate information are highlighted. Limitations of the self-report methodology, and future research directions including broader clinical decision-making processes are overviewed.