Across the country, waitlists for autism diagnostic services at centers such as the Thompson Center are months, sometimes years, long. This problem is not unique to the United States. Globally, there is a shortage of autism experts and even simple awareness of autism, forcing families to wait long periods of time before their questions about their child’s future can be answered. In many cases, families from other countries may never have access to autism specialists.
The Thompson Center ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) Autism program offers solutions by increasing access to best practice autism care for individuals with autism and their families across the globe. From its inception in 2015, the ECHO Autism program has been successful in training medical care providers to recognize autism symptoms and manage co-occurring conditions. Early success of the ECHO Autism model has created opportunities for the leadership team to mentor and coach other academic centers and organizations to replicate the program.
Now, The Thompson Center ECHO Autism team has helped pediatricians and autism experts in Mumbai, India develop an ECHO Autism program. This new team opens the door to expand the reach of ECHO Autism’s expertise to the more than 1.3 billion people in India, millions of whom have little-to-no access to autism care.
“The collaboration with the Thompson Center ECHO team has given us a wonderful opportunity to work with physicians across various states in India and neighboring countries in the space of autism,” said Dr. Leera Lobo, developmental pediatrician at the Ummeed Child Development Center in Mumbai and ECHO Autism India hub team expert. “Dr. Kristin Sohl and Alicia Curran have been extremely supportive and helpful as we adapted the ECHO Autism model for our setting. We hope to influence many more physicians through this model and improve quality of care for families of children with autism spectrum disorder.”
Using state-of-the-art video conferencing technology, ECHO Autism brings autism expertise and care to underserved communities by simultaneously connecting dozens of care providers located in rural and underserved urban areas with an autism expert “hub team.” Hub teams for ECHO Autism include an interdisciplinary team of experts. Each program builds a hub team that will best support the needs of their community. One unique quality of an ECHO Autism hub team is that they all have a parent of a child with autism. ECHO Autism was the first ECHO program to include a parent on the hub team. Due to the rich expertise that the parent advocacy experts bring to the team, other ECHO programs, in other disease states, are integrating patients and families into their hub teams.
Since its inception in March 2018, ECHO Autism Ummeed has averaged 27 participants in each of its bi-weekly sessions. These participants, many of whom are pediatricians from throughout India and neighboring countries, are able to receive valuable autism diagnostic and treatment training from the hub team of experts and then apply that knowledge to the care of their own patients.
“Expanding access to best-practice autism care is crucial for children and families to maximize opportunities for improved outcomes. ECHO Autism unites autism experts and communities to move knowledge to places in need rather than moving patients,” said Dr. Kristin Sohl, director of ECHO Autism and associate professor of clinical child at the Thompson Center. “Drs. Lobo and Sengupta are a shining example of bringing best practice autism care to communities through guided practice and mentorship. The tremendous work they are doing has the potential to touch millions of children in India and neighboring countries. We are thrilled with their success and we are looking forward to bringing best practice autism care through ECHO Autism to more global partnerships in the near future.”
The Thompson Center ECHO Autism leadership team is helping teams in Kenya, the Czech Republic, Ireland, Macedonia, Argentina and Guatemala to develop their own ECHO Autism programs. For more information about the ECHO Autism program please visit: www.echoautism.com.