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Module: Early Identification of Autism Spectrum Disorders
NATIONAL INITIATIVES AND RESOURCES FOR EARLY IDENTIFICATION
To address priorities for earlier identification of ASD, a number of national organizations and agencies have launched campaigns and established policies to promote the early identification of autism spectrum disorders and other developmental disabilities.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA)
The IDEA requires each state to provide a comprehensive child find and referral system to identify children with disabilities such as autism as early as possible and to connect these children with school and community services. Child find activities are required by Part C early intervention and school systems to identify, locate, and evaluate all children in need of early intervention, special education, and related services. There is a growing awareness and emphasis on early identification and early intervention because of these federally mandated activities. In 1990, autism was added to IDEA as a category of disability to more appropriately serve children with ASD ages 3 to 22 in schools.
Academy of Pediatrics
The American Academy of Pediatrics endorsed new practice parameters for ASD screening and evaluation to occur with primary care pediatric practices, as summarized in Identification and Evaluation of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (Johnson et al., 2007).
Learn the Signs. Act Early
Concurrent with studying the growing prevalence of ASD, the CDC has launched a comprehensive public awareness campaign, Learn the Signs. Act Early. The purpose of this initiative is to increase the awareness of typical child development milestones and promote “action” if delays are suspected. The importance of acting early to make a difference has resulted in outreach to key stakeholders including parents, health care professionals, early childhood educators, and policy makers. There are many free or low cost materials that are available at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website.
The CDC-sponsored Regional Act Early Summits were an example of how many national initiatives collaborated to support sustainable, state team work with the potential to influence policy, resources, and practices to increase early identification and intervention for children with ASD and their families. Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD)
Autism Society of American (ASA)
A leading advocacy voice in the US for autism, ASA promotes the importance of early identification because autism is a treatable condition that is known to result in improved outcomes with appropriate and early interventions.
Autism Speaks is dedicated to funding global biomedical research into the causes, prevention, treatments, and cure for autism; to raising public awareness about autism and its effects on individuals, families, and society; and to bringing hope to all who deal with the hardships of this disorder. Autism Speaks hosts the Autism Video Glossary, mentioned earlier in this module, on its website.
The Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has committed significant resources to early identification and intervention for ASD. This includes grants to University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities to enhance leadership training to future professionals committed to working with individuals with ASD and their families. MCHB also funds State Implementation Grants for Improving Services for Children and Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders. The Autism Medical Home Service Guidelines resulted from previous MCHB funding to the National Autism Medical Home Initiative charged to demonstrate how principles of the medical home are applied to achieve early identification and intervention for children with autism spectrum disorders. This document is available at the Waisman Center National Medical Home Autism Initiative.