Background: Lack of familiarity with early signs of autism by community service providers has resulted in significant delays in children receiving early intervention services necessary to improve long-term outcomes. The Screening Tool for Autism in Toddlers and Young Children (STAT) was specifically developed to identify early behavioral features of autism. Although STAT training has been available for years, access is limited because of few STAT trainers and geographic concerns. This study evaluated the efficacy and acceptability of Web-based training of the STAT as a means of increasing accessibility to this training.
Materials and methods: Thirty professionals from three geographic areas participated. Roughly 1 of 3 had little or no training on autism assessment. The tutorial contains a general overview, administration and scoring conventions, and item-specific content and concepts. Participants completed a pretest and then completed the STAT tutorial at their own pace, followed by a post-test and a user satisfaction questionnaire.
Results: Mean scores on STAT concepts significantly improved after taking the tutorial (p<0.001). At pretest, only 1 person (3%) obtained correct scores on at least 80% of the items (a priori cutoff for a "pass"), compared with 22 (73%) at post-test (p<0.001). The majority of trainees enjoyed taking the tutorial, thought it was well organized, relevant, interesting, and useful, and felt it was easy to understand and operate.
Discussion: Results support Web-based training as a promising method for promoting early identification of autism and may help overcome problems associated with the critical shortage of autism-screening professionals.