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Community of Support for Early Childhood Communities

Autism Foundation of Oklahoma

Date Submitted: 09/08/2021

Contact Information:

Emily Scott Executive Director

(405) 434-5507

Autism Foundation of Oklahoma

PO Box 42133 Oklahoma City, OK 73162

Rating Category: Innovative Idea

Focus Area: Social Emotional Learning

Focus Population: Children, Teachers, Owners, Caregivers, Guardians, Medical Providers, Administrators, Parents

Goals and Outcomes:

The primary outcome for this submission is to increase support for early childhood communities in the area of autism and related disabilities by creating a statewide community of specially trained providers. The Autism Foundation of Oklahoma (AFO) will use the Training of Trainers Model to achieve this goal, recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2019). This model aims to prepare providers to present information effectively, respond to questions/concerns, lead activities that reinforce learning, and help others link evidence-based information to their day-to-day jobs, which ties in with the outcome of this submission. This submission will be the link between the evidence and the application of the evidence. The curriculum will include evidence-based information on the following areas: child development and social emotional well-being as it relates to autism spectrum disorders, components of quality early childhood education, family-centered care, culturally responsive care, teaming, collaboration, and communication. This program will build capacity across the state by training community-based providers through public-private partnerships in providing technical assistance and training to early childhood communities that support young children with autism.

Below are the intended objectives for the first year of program implementation. Once the submission is approved, this project will collaborate with the Oklahoma Child Care Resource and Referral Association (OCCRRA) to ensure goals are achievable and realistic.

  1. Recruit and train ten new trainers from across the state to support early childhood communities on autism and related disabilities.

  2. Provide 100 virtual visits to early childhood communities supporting children with autism and related disabilities.

  3. Provide 50 on-site visits or video reviews to early childhood communities supporting children with autism and related disabilities.

Brief Summary:

The issue addressed through this submission is the translation of knowledge from the Clearinghouse or other evidence-based resources into everyday practice. Knowledge translation is the movement of a new idea from a research setting, peer-reviewed journal, systematic review, or continuing education course to day-to-day practice. Knowledge translation is more than just knowing; it involves putting that knowledge into practice. Knowledge translation starts with practitioners becoming aware of new information, shifting perception of new information, making a decision about new information, applying it, and confirming the new information by incorporating it into everyday practice. Knowledge translation can significantly be limited when practitioners do not have access to role models who will encourage and support them in implementing newly acquired information (Rabinowicz & Ray, 2018).

This program aims to create a network of trained providers who bridge the gap in early childhood communities from acquiring new knowledge to applying the new knowledge into everyday practice. Based on literature around adult learning and knowledge translation, minimal change will occur if participants do not have access to a reliable support system (Rabinowicz & Ray, 2018). Early childhood communities are expected to know about all areas of child development. It is too much to expect them to be the expert in all things around child development. Through this program, the trained providers will be the experts in autism and related disorders, providing a valuable resource for early childhood communities supporting young children.

Approximately 260,000 children in Oklahoma are under five years old (US Census Bureau, 2019). Using the national statistic that 1 in 54 children have a diagnosis, about 4800 children in Oklahoma under five have autism. In an Oklahoma statewide study, approximately 39% of parents of children with autism reported that childcare significantly impacted their employment decisions, which is seven times higher than families of children without autism. Not having access to childcare affects families three times more than the effects of poverty. The childcare community is a critical community to the health of Oklahoma families that would benefit from a program such as this submission.

Innovative Idea for Early Childhood:

The proposed solution is to build a community of consultants with specialized training in supporting young children with autism or related disorders. This community will be readily accessible to early childhood communities (ECC). ECC across the state of Oklahoma can seek out support from these trained consultants when questions or challenges arise specific to children with autism and other related developmental disabilities. The process will start with the ECC sending in a referral or question regarding particular interventions. The consultant will schedule a virtual or phone visit within one week. The consultant will ensure that the ECC has access to evidence-based information specific to their area of concern. If the childcare community needs more intensive support, on-site visits or video visits are also an option. In an on-site visit, the consultant goes to the site, observes the student or classroom, and provides recommendations. In a video visit, the consultant will send the needed video equipment (if needed) to the referral, the referral will either record their concern or the consultant will watch the child or classroom live to provide feedback. The consultant will provide the referral with a brief written report and follow-up approximately two weeks later. The plan is to implement the project through the phases listed below. However, the program leaders will work closely with partners such as OCCRRA to ensure the process is as efficient and effective as possible within the existing systems. The program will consist of four different levels of consultants.

Intern – Providers must meet the following criteria to become an intern.

  • Experience as early childhood educators, allied health professionals, counselors, educators, or other related fields

  • Success working with children with autism or other related disabilities

  • Flexible scheduling

  • Open mind and flexibility for learning new information

  • Passion for supporting early childhood communities

Consultant – Once the interns complete the training and meet the competencies determined by the Program Leaders, they are qualified to be consultants. As a consultant, they can do virtual and on-site visits independently. They are still required to participate in required meetings and trainings.

Master Consultant – After the consultant has worked for an entire year or demonstrates specific competencies, the consultant can become a Master Consultant. As a Master Consultant, the consultant can lead small groups and train new consultants.

Program Leader – The responsibility of the program leader is to guide the consultants through the curriculum, focusing on training more consultants and Master consultants. Program leaders must know how to read and analyze the data to make needed changes to the program.

Phase 1: Recruitment of Consultants and Preparation

The goal of the first year is to create a community of at least ten consultants. Each consultant will be assigned to at least one of the five DHS Child Welfare Regions. Multiple consultants will be given to more densely populated areas such as Region 3 (Oklahoma County) and Region 5 (Tulsa). The program leaders will recruit potential consultants through social media groups, list serves, and personal contacts.


While the program leaders are recruiting potential interns, they will also be preparing for the provider training. The program leaders will prepare agendas, training topics, steps for implementation, begin resource library, determine data collection tools, and recruit various guest speakers.

Phase 2: Intern Training and Mentoring

The program leaders will use the Training of Trainers (ToT) Model recommended by the CDC (2019). The purpose of this model is to engage master consultants in coaching new consultants who are less experienced with a particular topic, skills, or with training overall. Below are the steps for the model, along with example implementation specific to this community.

  1. Pre-assessment—The program leaders will gather extensive information from the interns to determine interest in participating in the program through surveys and interviews. The program leaders will also identify any learning needs specific to each intern.

  2. Pre-work— This step will occur at least 40 hours of coursework time. The program leaders will present the information while also providing interactive, hands-on learning activities to translate the knowledge.

  3. Adult learning principles— Throughout the process, the program leaders will provide instruction and feedback based on proven adult learning principles. For example, the program leaders will present information in small chunks, pair it with interactive activities and provide opportunities for social interaction.

  4. Skill practice and feedback—Before interns can do the virtual or on-site visits, they will first practice in a mock situation. They will then do a virtual and on-site visit with a program leader present. The program leader will provide them with feedback using a rubric. The intern must demonstrate critical elements (effective communication) and knowledge (autism and supports) before becoming a consultant and performing visits independently.

  5. Action planning—The program leaders will walk consultants through the process of receiving the referral, contacting the recipient, scheduling the visit, performing the visit, and follow-up with the visit.

  6. Planned follow-up support— The community of consultants will meet regularly to ensure the quality of the visits and strengthen providers' knowledge. Over time the consultants will take more ownership in these meetings, taking on various topics to present to the other members of the community.

Phase 3: Virtual and On-Site Visits

During this phase, the consultants will start accepting virtual consultations over the phone or through video streaming. Once the consultation request is received, the consultant will schedule it within one week. If the visit meets the requirements for an on-site visit or virtual visit, the consultant will schedule it within one month or send out the needed equipment. Each person requesting a consultation will complete a survey and receive a summary after the visit.

Phase 4: Evaluation

The leaders will collect data from the new trainers throughout the course. The program leaders will collect formative and summative data from surveys. The consultants and program leaders will also collect data from each visit in the form of a survey. The survey will consist of Likert-style questions regarding satisfaction of the visits and open-ended questions. At the end of the first year (more frequently if requested by funders), the leaders will analyze the data to determine effectiveness, themes regarding the program, and potential program changes.

Program Collaboration

A program such as this is only effective if the program leaders collaborate with existing programs. This program will work with the Child Care Warm Line at OSDH to ensure that childcare providers are aware of and familiar with the resources they provide. The leaders will work with OCCRRA for potential interns as well as potential guest speakers and trainers. The program leaders will work on creating a strong collaboration between public and private entities , as well as between the program leaders and existing state agencies.

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