Bridging the Research-to-Practice Gap in Autism Intervention: An Application of Diffusion of Innovation Theory

Original Paper


There is growing evidence that efficacious interventions for autism are rarely adopted or successfully implemented in public mental health and education systems. We propose applying diffusion of innovation theory to further our understanding of why this is the case. We pose a practical set of questions that administrators face as they decide about the use of interventions. Using literature from autism intervention and dissemination science, we describe reasons why efficacious interventions for autism are rarely adopted, implemented, and maintained in community settings, all revolving around the perceived fit between the intervention and the needs and capacities of the setting. Finally, we suggest strategies for intervention development that may increase the probability that these interventions will be used in real-world settings.


Autism spectrum disorders Intervention Community mental health Public schools Implementation science Diffusion of innovation 



This work was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (F31MH088172-02).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.Center for Mental Health Policy and Services Research, Department of PsychiatryUniversity of Pennsylvania School of MedicinePhiladelphiaUSA

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