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Adaption and pilot implementation of an autism executive functioning intervention in children's mental health services: a mixed-methods study protocol.



Youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) represent a growing population with significant service needs. Prominent among these needs are high rates of co-occurring psychiatric conditions that contribute to increased functional impairments and often necessitate mental health services. Executive functioning deficits are associated with ASD as well as common co-occurring conditions (e.g., attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) and an evidence-based intervention has been developed and tested to address executive functioning within the school context. There is an urgent need to implement indicated evidence-based interventions for youth with ASD receiving care in community mental health settings. Interventions that optimally "fit" the mental health services context as well as the complex and co-occurring mental health needs of these youth have the potential to improve key clinical outcomes for this high priority population.


This mixed-methods developmental study will apply the Exploration, Preparation, Implementation, Sustainment implementation framework and a community-academic partnership approach to systematically adapt and test an evidence-based executive functioning intervention for youth with ASD for delivery in community mental health settings. Specific aims are to (1) conduct a need and context assessment to inform the systematic adaptation an executive functioning evidence-based intervention; (2) systematically adapt the clinical intervention and develop a corresponding implementation plan, together entitled "Executive Functioning for Enhancing Community-based Treatment for ASD," (EFFECT for ASD); and (3) conduct a feasibility pilot test of EFFECT for ASD in community mental health settings.


Tailoring evidence-based interventions for delivery in community-based mental health services for youth with ASD has the potential to increase quality of care and improve child outcomes. Results from the current study will serve as the foundation for large-scale hybrid implementation and effectiveness trials and a generalizable approach for different service systems of care and clinical populations.

Trial registration, NCT04295512.

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