As autism prevalence rates continue to rise, the demand for trained diagnosticians continues to increase dramatically. However, once diagnosticians are trained in the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule-2nd edition (ADOS-2), which is the gold-standard autism diagnostic test, they may spend years conducting the test without support or resources to ensure they remain as effective as possible at implementing the assessment and analyzing the results.
Now, the autism diagnostic experts at the Thompson Center for Autism & Neurodevelopmental Disorders have created a global network of autism diagnosticians and researchers to help share knowledge about the ADOS-2 and support ongoing mastery of the test. The brainchild of Thompson Center ADOS-2 experts Kourtney Christopher and Dr. Stephen Kanne, the Global Autism Interactive Network (GAIN) aims to increase participants’ ADOS-2 competence, reduce financial barriers and provide ongoing support for ADOS-2 practitioners.
“The ADOS-2 is a very difficult test to learn and gain expertise,” said Dr. Stephen Kanne, executive director of the Thompson Center and an ADOS-2 expert trainer. “Analyzing the data and behavioral results can often seem like a moving target, so it is really important for people who use the ADOS-2 to constantly re-calibrate how they conduct the test to remain as effective as possible. Our hope with GAIN is to connect these professionals, so we can learn together and from one another’s experiences.”
GAIN is led by pre-eminent ADOS-2 trainers including Dr. Kanne and Drs. Somer Bishop, Vanessa Bal and Amy Esler. The professional development program takes place via monthly 90-minute video teleconferences. The sessions discuss real-life examples of ADOS-2 assessments, including in-depth analysis of the scoring of the tests and the ability to ask questions of the expert trainers. The expert trainers also present new and ongoing research on the ADOS-2 to keep participants updated on the latest developments in the science of autism diagnosis.
“It is interesting to see a graph of the participants’ scores and to be able to compare these to my own, and to see correlations between these scores and the trainers’,” said GAIN participant Lucy Sanctuary. “The sessions are interesting, fun, encouraging, motivating and extremely helpful.”
“This is such an invaluable resource,” said Grace Dean, a current GAIN participant. “Each trainer brings such great insight and it is amazing to have the opportunity to learn from their expertise.”
GAIN has experienced amazing growth in just a few months of existence. More than 400 participants from 19 countries have already joined the network.
“Our goal has always been to create a truly global network of ADOS-2 implementers, and we are excited that there is such a huge interest already in joining this community,” Dr. Kanne said. “Using the amazing advances in videoconference technology, we can connect with hundreds of people around the world at the same time. Canada, Japan, Iceland; it’s truly global and we plan on continuing this growth so every corner of the world can receive access to the highest quality of autism diagnosis and care.”
“[GAIN] gives those of us in isolated and remote places the opportunity to access highly skilled trainers and experts in our field,” said GAIN participant Nadine DeWolfe. “This training is extremely relevant to my clinical work on a daily basis.”
Beyond connecting with hundreds of other ADOS-2 professionals around the world, GAIN leaders hope to promote the fidelity of administration and validity of coding in clinical settings and provide “practice” opportunities for researchers working toward ADOS-2 reliability.
“This is an incredible program that fills a definite need for continued calibration on the ADOS after initial training,” said GAIN participant Lisa Hamrick. “It is so helpful to have consistent discussions about ADOS administration and coding, and helps me feel more confident in using the ADOS in our research and community clinic.”
GAIN leaders also hope the network will support maintenance of reliability in the ADOS-2 for experienced clinicians and researchers, improve knowledge for lead administrators and clinical supervisors at sites, and support ongoing research on autism diagnosis. In the future, plans include introducing the opportunity for participants to submit an ADOS-2 or calibration and receive administration feedback using fidelity checklists.
GAIN will offer Continuing Education credits for members of APA, NASP and ASHA. In order to participate in GAIN, members must have already attended a clinical ADOS-2 training. For more information about GAIN and how to join, visit: https://thompsoncenter.missouri.edu/gain.