1. Home
  2. Programs & Impact
  3. Autism


Through the Autism Cares Act of 2019, we support:

  • Training the healthcare workforce to screen, refer, and provide services for children and youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Developmental Disabilities (DD).
  • Research about ASD/DD interventions and how to best put findings into practice
  • Coordinated and effective systems of services that state public health agencies can build for people with ASD/DD and their families

Our approach to autism

We want all children, youth, and young adults with ASD and other DDs to:

  • Enjoy a full life, from childhood through adulthood
  • Thrive in systems that
    • Support their families, their social, health, and emotional needs
    • Ensure dignity, autonomy, independence, and active participation in their community

Through our investments and partnerships, we are:

Improving access to quality services

Our investments in training, research, and in-state-level MCH agencies are improving access to quality services.


We support autism research programs and networks. Research identifies what interventions and types of coordination work best for children and youth with ASD/DD. Research networks share proven methods and strategies.

See our research investments page to learn more about these research investments:

  • Autism Intervention Research Networks
    • Autism Intervention Research Network on Physical Health (AIR-P)
    • Autism Intervention Research Network on Behavioral Health (AIR-B)
    • Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics Research Network (DBPNet)
    • Healthy Weight Research Network for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Other Developmental Disabilities (HWRN)
  • Autism Single Investigator Innovation Program (SIIP)
  • Autism Field-Initiated Innovative Research Studies (Autism FIRST)
  • Autism Secondary Data Analysis Research (Autism SDAR)

Support to public health organizations

We help state MCH public health agencies use new methods to better coordinate care for children with ASD/DD. We do this through our Title V MCH Block Grant partnerships. These include:

Advancing equity

Within all of our research, training, and state investments, we advance equity by focusing on:

  • Engaging and consulting with family members and people with ASD/DD in how we design and implement our training, research, and state programs; including family members and people with ASD/DD in our programs
  • Targeting populations that have been affected by systemic and structural barriers including poverty, racism, ableism, gender discrimination, and other forms of contemporary and historical injustices
  • Understanding and overcoming barriers to identification and diagnosis of ASD/DD, and increasing access to inclusive, culturally relevant services

Strengthening the maternal and child health (MCH) workforce

We invest in training that increases the MCH professionals’ knowledge of ADD/DD and builds their skill sets to identify ASD/DD and provide services.

Training programs include:

Creating impact through leadership, partnership, and stewardship

In FY 2020, our MCH training programs trained:

  • 1,574 long-term trainees
  • 3,834 medium-term trainees
  • 12,059 short-term trainees

Resources for MCH professionals

For participants in the LEND and DBP programs:

For state Title V agencies:

For clinicians, researchers, and practitioners:

  • The Association of University Centers on Disabilities has a 2022 Autism Acceptance Month Webinar Series which includes topics such as “Building a Lifespan Socialization Curriculum” and “What You Need to Know About Autism, Health Insurance, and Mental Health Parity Law”

Our autism work in the broader context

The Autism CARES Act funds work in other U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

HRSA works with other federal agencies to improve care for children and youth with ASD/DD through participation on The Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC). The IACC coordinates all autism efforts within HHS.

HHS provides a general overview of ASD, including signs and symptoms, screening and diagnosis, causes, risk factors and prognosis, research and clinical trials, and publications.

NIH also provides a broad overview of ASD.

The CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities provides a variety of information, data, and research materials.

At the state-level, The Association of University Centers on Disabilities promotes a network of experts to improve early identification of DD, including ASD through The Act Early Ambassadors Project.

Date Last Reviewed: