Implementation-as-Usual in Community-Based Organizations Providing Specialized Services to Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Mixed Methods Study

Adm Policy Ment Health. 2021 May;48(3):482-498. doi: 10.1007/s10488-020-01084-5. Epub 2020 Sep 18.


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a highly prevalent neurodevelopmental disorder. ASD community-based organizations (ASD-CBOs) underutilize or inconsistently utilize evidence-based practices (ASD-EBPs) despite numerous available EBPs to treat ASD. Nonetheless, ASD-CBOs implement changes to practices regularly. Understanding ASD-CBO's implementation-as-usual (IAU) processes may assist to develop strategies to facilitate ASD-EBP adoption, implementation and sustainment. A convergent mixed methods (quan + QUAL) design was utilized. Twenty ASD-CBO agency leaders (ALs) and 26 direct providers (DPs), from 21 ASD-CBOs, completed the Autism Model of Implementation Survey Battery, including demographic and agency IAU process questions. Surveys were analyzed through descriptive and content analyses. A subset of 10 ALs provided qualitative interview data that were analyzed using coding, consensus and comparison methods to allow for a more comprehensive understanding of the IAU process within their ASD-CBOs. Quantitative analyses and qualitative coding were merged utilizing a joint display and compared. Results suggest that the IAU process follows some phases identified in the Exploration, Preparation, Implementation, Sustainment (EPIS) framework but were conducted in an informal manner-lacking specificity, structure and consistency across and within ASD-CBOs. Moreover, data suggest adding a specific adoption decision phase to the framework. Nonetheless, most ALs felt previous implementation efforts were successful. IAU processes were explored to determine whether the implementation process may be an area for intervention to increase ASD-EBP utilization in ASD-CBOs. Developing a systematized implementation process may facilitate broader utilization of high quality ASD-EBPs within usual care settings, and ultimately improve the quality of life for individuals with ASD and their families.

Keywords: Autism spectrum disorder; Evidence-based practice; Health disparities; Implementation; Implementation-as-usual; Mixed methods.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder* / therapy
  • Community Health Services
  • Evidence-Based Practice
  • Humans
  • Organizations
  • Quality of Life