Translating Research Into Knowledge

SEDL's DRP staff, working with the Campbell Collaboration, completed a systematic review focusing on transition to work programs for school-age youth with autism spectrum disorders in terms of how effectively the programs support actual movement into integrated, community-based jobs. The review will help direct future research and lead to more evidence-based decision making.

“Knowledge translation is focused on causing change: in behaviors, in attitudes, in policy, in awareness and understanding. These are appropriate and intended goals aimed at using evidence to support decision making.” –John Westbrook, Program Manager of SEDL’s Disability Research to Practice program 
 SEDL’s Disability Research to Practice (DRP) program is home to two major knowledge translation centers: the Center on Knowledge Translation for Employment Research (KTER) and the Center on Knowledge Translation for Disability and Rehabilitation Research (KTDRR). The goal of knowledge translation (KT) is to analyze available high-quality research so practitioners can make informed decisions about the most effective interventions to use in addressing specific awareness, behavioral, or policy issues.

As funding agencies increase their expectations for the use of evidence-based practices, KT activities facilitate access to high-quality evidence about “what works.” Systematic reviews are essential tools in this process by providing a comprehensive analysis of the existing research related to the effectiveness of specific interventions.

In September 2013, SEDL’s DRP staff, working with the Campbell Collaboration, completed a systematic review focusing on transition to work programs for school-age youth with autism spectrum disorders in terms of how effectively the programs support actual movement into integrated, community-based jobs. The results of the systematic review found that very limited research was available, and most did not link employment outcomes to the effectiveness of school-to-work transition programs. The review will help direct future research and lead to more evidence-based decision making. The review did identify selected characteristics of programs that may contribute to increased effectiveness. In the few months since this report was published in the Campbell Collaboration Library of Systematic Reviews, it has been downloaded over 50,000 times and is currently the third most frequently downloaded systematic review in the library. This popularity reveals a crucial desire for high quality evidence in the disability community.

The process of KT requires intended stakeholders to play a central role in identifying questions that need an evidence-based answer. DRP staff initiated an annual survey with National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) grantees about their KT challenges and issues. The results, in part, have led to implementation of an online conference to address respondents’ priorities in measuring KT activities. The Center on KTDRR plans to present webcasts on topics such as developing high-quality research syntheses, tools for analyzing research, evidence-based practice guidelines, retrieval of international research, implementation of evidence-based policies, among other topics, to alleviate the other KT challenges of the NIDRR grantees.

For more information, please contact SEDL’s Disability Research to Practice director John Westbrook at john.westbrook@sedl.org or at 512-391-6565.

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