Access to Autism Spectrum Disorder Services for Rural Appalachian Citizens


Background: Low-resource rural communities face significant challenges regarding availability and adequacy of evidence-based services.

Purposes: With respect to accessing evidence-based services for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), this brief report summarizes needs of rural citizens in the South-Central Appalachian region, an area notable for persistent health disparities.

Methods: A mixed-methods approach was used to collect quantitative and qualitative data during focus groups with 33 service providers and 15 caregivers of children with ASD in rural southwest Virginia.

Results: Results supported the barriers of availability and affordability of ASD services in this region, especially relating to the need for more ASD-trained providers, better coordination and navigation of services, and addition of programs to assist with family financial and emotional stressors. Results also suggested cultural attitudes related to autonomy and trust towards outside professionals that may prevent families from engaging in treatment.

Implications: Relevant policy recommendations are discussed related to provider incentives, insurance coverage, and telehealth. Integration of autism services into already existing systems and multicultural sensitivity of providers are also implicated.