AUCD Network Projects Support Early Childhood Screening Across the Nation

Early Childhood Goal imageMembers of the AUCD network take early childhood education and developmental screening pretty seriously. Nationally, AUCD’s Early Intervention/Early Childhood Special Interest Group connects leaders from across the country to share information and collaborate on critical issues related to early childhood.

AUCD supports the CDC’s Learn the Signs. Act Early. project through the Act Early Network. The Act Early Network is a collaborative initiative of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs (AMCHP) and the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) to further advance the CDC’s “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” Program. Learn the Signs. Act Early. aims to improve the early identification of children with autism and other developmental disabilities so children and families can get the services and support they need. The Network includes the Act Early ForumAmbassadors, and State Systems Projects.

As part of the work, Act Early Connecticut released the Connecticut Guidelines for a Clinical Diagnosis of an Autism Spectrum Disorder, a direct result of collaborative efforts that were initiated under the Act Early Summit Project. Connecticut’s stakeholders participated in the Act Early Summit in April, 2010. A key goal identified at the summit by the Connecticut Team was the publication of clinical diagnostic guidelines specific to Connecticut. Over the past several years, a multidisciplinary workgroup consisting of parents, autism researchers, educators, and practitioners from developmental behavioral pediatrics, early intervention, public schools/special education, developmental psychology, child psychiatry and law was enlisted to write the guidelines with support from an advisory group including members of the University of Connecticut UCEDD. Read more…

In Illinois, the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) program at the Institute on Disability and Human Development (IDHD), University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), in collaboration with Autism Speaks and other key community partners conducted outreach to underserved Latino families by addressing developmental concerns; screened and referred families for additional testing; and provided guidance and support from culturally-competent, trained clinicians and service providers, free of cost. Racial and ethnic disparities in both age of diagnosis and access to services remain a tremendous challenge for our communities of color. The Early Access to Care Initiative aimed to lower the age of diagnosis of ASD and increase access to evidence-based early intervention services. Read more…

Researchers from California to North Carolina have also been making strides in discovering early signs of autism and effective interventions to improve outcomes for children. At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, researchers at the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities found that preschoolers with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) who receive high-quality early intervention make significant positive gains during the school year regardless of the comprehensive treatment model used (TEACCH, LEAP or a high-quality special education program without a specific model). The results may shift the field’s thinking about treatment models for young children with ASD and may have important implications for special-education programs and school classrooms across the country. The UCLA Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center was the first to map autism-risk genes by function and uncover how mutations in the genes disrupt fetal brain development.