Children from Spanish-speaking families often face barriers to autism care, including delays in diagnosis. That’s why the UC Davis MIND Institute is now opening its virtual Spanish autism education program to families in the community and beyond.
Called ECHO Autism, the interactive program has been offered in the past to autism providers. Now, it will connect MIND Institute experts with families and caregivers as well as providers. Spanish sessions will be held on the second Thursday of each month from 9-11 a.m. (PST)
“Spanish-speaking families in our community continue to report barriers to obtaining the right help at the right time for their children,” said Bibiana Restrepo, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician with the MIND Institute who's part of the ECHO team. “Children from Spanish-speaking families tend to receive a formal autism diagnosis later in life and present with more challenges. Although autism occurs throughout all racial and socioeconomic backgrounds, the prevalence is lower for Hispanic children in many areas of the country. This indicates barriers in diagnosis,” Restrepo explained.
How does ECHO Autism work?
The ECHO Autism team at the MIND Institute includes developmental-behavioral pediatricians, psychologists, social workers, community resource experts and behavioral specialists. The format is a virtual interactive conference. Participants log in via a teleconferencing platform.
The experts first present a topic relevant to autism providers, caregivers and families of autistic individuals. Then a provider presents a patient case to receive recommendations, advice and support (the patient is not identified to protect their privacy).
The multidisciplinary approach gives those taking part access to a wide range of expertise. The core concept is to provide help and support in using practices and therapies that are supported by research and evidence.
“ECHO Autism is centered on the learner,” Restrepo said. “We work together to come up with ideas with the common goal of improving care for autistic individuals. We often discuss not only autism, but the other medical and mental health conditions that commonly occur with it – including sleep, gastrointestinal issues and anxiety.”
ECHO Autism is centered on the learner. We work together to come up with ideas with the common goal of improving care for autistic individuals. We often discuss not only autism, but the other medical and mental health conditions that commonly occur with it – including sleep and gastrointestinal issues and anxiety.”
Meeting a need for more autism support
ECHO Autism has been offered in English for providers since 2018 and in Spanish for providers since 2021. The goal has been to develop a stronger connection with providers in rural and underserved areas to improve autism care. The expertise gained by providers “echoes” widely as they care for patients. But Restrepo notes that they heard from Spanish-speaking community members that there was a strong demand for more family education as well.
“Our team meet with several parenting groups in our community and found there was a great need for this information and support. The parents we talked to were all enthusiastic about ECHO Autism being available to families,” Restrepo said.
The program is targeted to people in Northern California but is not limited to this area. During past sessions, participants have logged in from all over the world, including quite a few from Latin America.
“ECHO has been a great opportunity to meet with professionals caring for people living in rural and underserved areas and building up a community with the same goal of improving autism care everywhere,” Restrepo said.
How to sign up for ECHO Autism
ECHO Autism is a free program; it is funded by the Division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at UC Davis Health.
Sessions are the second Thursday of each month from 9-11 a.m. (PST) Registration is required. To register or learn more, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The UC Davis MIND Institute in Sacramento, Calif. was founded in 1998 as a unique interdisciplinary research center where families, community leaders, researchers, clinicians and volunteers work together toward a common goal: researching causes, treatments and potential prevention of challenges associated with neurodevelopmental disabilities. The institute has major research efforts in autism, fragile X syndrome, chromosome 22q11.2 deletion syndrome, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Down syndrome. More information about the institute and its Distinguished Lecturer Series, including previous presentations in this series, is available on the Web at mindinstitute.ucdavis.edu.