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Combating Autism: Grant Programs

Alaska Department of Health and Social Services

Abstract FY 2009


Problem: The project will improve early screening, diagnosis and access to comprehensive coordinated early intervention services and related health care for children and families across Alaska who experience autism spectrum disorder and other nuerodevelopmental disorders.

Goals and Objectives:

Goal 1: Improve and coordinate early identification, developmental screening, and diagnosis of children with suspected autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders using a rapid response team model.

Objective 1: In 17 regions, train personnel to rapidly respond to requests in the home community. Hire a program manager and a training coordinator to complete an environmental scan, identifying professionals, determining needs, ability to respond to requests, and the tools needed to complete screenings.
Objective 2: Design training program, meeting provider needs based on educational background and job responsibilities. Evidence-based training includes general information, tool usage, and screening videotaping. Pilot training. Review feedback, redesign, meeting applicability and effectiveness. Replicate.
Objective 3: Identify rapid response team roles and issue tool kits for a coordinated and seamless screening process for children 0-3 in their home community suspected of having autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders. Screenings reviewed by neurodevelopmental specialists who will identify next steps.

Goal 2: Alaskan children will receive early identification assessment services, medical home designation, and appropriate intervention.

Objective 1: Conduct a public outreach campaign for professionals and the public to raise community awareness and provider interest on importance of conducting early screening, medical home designation, and early intervention for comprehensive care.
Objective 2: Distribute an autism tool kit by the American Academy of Pediatricians to providers statewide. Providing camera-ready educational tools, these resources may be given to families, further educating families on warning signs, concerns, and normal growth and development.
Objective 3: Using CDC’s Learn the Signs, Act Early campaign tools, educate the public, specifically those interacting with young children. Develop local tools and resources that direct providers to screening information, thereby increasing the numbers of children referred for assessment.

Goal 3: Align with the goals of the Alaska Autism Ad Hoc Committee and the Gov Council’s Action Plan and Timeline for implementing a 5-part autism initiative to assure continuity and sustainability.

Objective 1: The autism manger will actively participate on early childhood comprehensive system (ECCS) meetings, child health policy (CHP) committee, and interdepartmental early childhood coordinating council (IECCC) committee to facilitate enhanced communication between the divisions
Objective 2: The autism manager will co-facilitate the Alaska autism alliance committee and sit on the policy setting ad hoc committee from the Governor’s Council on Disabilities.
Objective 3: Upon request, the autism manager will attend and participate in community agency meetings implementing goals as part of the 5-part initiative.

Activities/Methodology undertaken to meet project goals:
The State of Alaska DPH and UAA posted the positions, advertised and hired staff (manager started Nov 08 and trainer Jan 09). After completing orientations, staff met with parents, agencies, and program organizers to understand current services as well as future needs. A steering Committee comprised of 15 cross discipline and agencies met to collectively identify process to begin work on goals. The Steering Committee further divided into 2 working subcommittees (screening/training and Media Awareness). Both subcommittees met, set timeline and prioritized goals. Work for multiple levels of the goal is being done by smaller work groups of 1-2 people. For example, the steering committee has a workgroup working on a DRAFT of the survey. Minutes from steering committee, media awareness subcommittee and screening/training subcommittee serve as an timeline to meet the goals and objectives. The Subcommittees are composed primarily of direct services staff while the steering committee serves as higher level administrative oversight. Approximately 75 individuals are part of the committees, workgroups, or on distribution lists for communication purposes. The committees and workgroups are focused on tasks and the communication process appears to be working effectively.

Participating members include parents, Governor's Council on Disabilities, UAA Center Human Development, Spec Ed Svs Ag, Mental Health Trust, Stone Soup Group, Children's Hospital, Sr. and Disability Services, Dept Public Hlth, HOPE, EI/ILP svs, Office Children’s Srvs, DOE, Division of Behavioral Hlth, DHSS Commissioner, Tribal Health, PHN, Military, Medicaid, private providers & physicians, Dept Public Ass’t, childcare providers, legal & justice systems, and communications officers.

Success measured with staff hired, environmental scan via survey of training needs implemented, training course syllabus developed and training piloted, identification and development of a rapid response team, play kits and toolkits delivered, systematic referral system identified and used, an increase in knowledge level of providers and general public, a documented increase in the numbers of children screened and referred for autism, designation of medical home, and services initiated.

Experience to Date:
The state of Alaska has successfully met many of the goals and objectives set out for year one of the combating autism grant awarded 9/1/08. State staff was hired and a nationally recognized PhD expert in autism was successfully recruited by UAA Center for Human Development (CHD). An environmental scan was completed leading to the development of a matix for training and skill building for several levels including rapid responders in communities, para professionals, parent navigators, bachelor's, master's and PhD candidates. Committees were established including a steering committee and subcommittees for public awarness and media, training and skill building and outreach to communities. Key stakeholders include state and community agency staff, parents and health care providers. The work completed builds on the goals and objectives outlined in the state Autism plan developed by the Autism Ad Hoc committee and endorsed by the Governor's Council on Disabilities and Special Education.