The MIND Institute’s new ECHO Autismo Program expands and improves autism care for children in Latin America
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“There is a huge need for providers to increase expertise in autism, so we are moving knowledge, instead of moving families and children, and we envision improving autism care for children everywhere,” explained Bibiana Restrepo, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician and assistant clinical professor in the Department of Pediatrics.
Restrepo, who’s also a MIND Institute faculty member, has been part of the ECHO Autism team since it launched in 2018. She said the group has participants from the Sacramento region, across the U.S. and around the globe. The goal is to develop a stronger connection with providers in underserved and rural areas who are committed to improving and enhancing autism care. She said the idea to create a program in Spanish came from ECHO participants who log in to the sessions from Latin American countries.
A collaborative, multidisciplinary team
ECHO Autism involves a group of 20 to 25 providers who gather monthly over smartphones, tablets and computers via a teleconferencing platform to connect with the MIND Institute ECHO Autism team. A multidisciplinary team of experts leads the sessions, including developmental and behavioral pediatricians, psychologists, behavioral specialists, social workers and others. The core concept is providing evidence-based practices for treating autism and associated conditions.
The meetings start with a discussion of topics relevant to providers caring for people with autism, then one of the practitioners presents a patient case to get treatment recommendations from the team. (The patient is not identified to protect his or her private health information.)
“ECHO Autism uses case-based learning,” said Restrepo. “It’s learner-centered with intense interaction between participants. We brainstorm together, while increasing our knowledge and building community with other providers. By the end of the discussion, the professional presenting the case has great individualized recommendations and children and their families receive the best care from their trusted provider.”
Restrepo noted that the discussions also cover many of the medical and mental health conditions that commonly co-occur in children with autism, such as sleep or gastrointestinal issues and anxiety.
“Sometimes caring for an autistic individual can be complex, so when everyone brings their different expertise, it’s very helpful. We’re increasing our knowledge, but also coming up with ideas about how to serve a particular patient in a multidisciplinary and family-centered approach,” she said.
The Spanish sessions begin Feb. 11 and will run for six months. Registration is required, as is a commitment to attend at least half of the sessions.
— Bibiana Restrepo
“After taking part in ECHO for quite a while now, I can tell you that it’s not just the participants who benefit,” Restrepo said. “The team at the MIND Institute learns from every single participant and their unique cases in a safe learning environment. We build community with other practitioners in remote locations and we make a positive impact on the lives of autistic individuals. It’s very rewarding!”
To register for “ECHO Autismo,” email firstname.lastname@example.org
Restrepo and other members of the UC Davis MIND Institute’s “ECHO Autismo” team will be hosting a Spanish-language Facebook LIVE event Feb. 5 at noon to discuss the expanded program.
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 neurodevelopmental disorders. 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.