Early Access to Care: Engaging Professionals

Thank you for your interest in Autism Speaks Early Access to Care initiative. Through awareness and dissemination of information and resources, this initiative seeks to reduce the average age of autism diagnosis and increase access to high-quality early intervention for all children on the autism spectrum.

The prevalence of autism has increased significantly over the last few decades, and today an estimated 1 in 68 children has an autism spectrum disorder. Thanks to advances in research in early detection and treatment, autism can now be reliably diagnosed as early as 24 months and evidence-based early interventions can improve its core symptoms. Unfortunately, many children are diagnosed too late to benefit fully from early intervention services.

Factors associated with delayed diagnosis include low socioeconomic status, lack of caregiver and provider knowledge of autism’s early signs, living in resource-poor settings and ethnic minority status. Furthermore, a number of autism prevalence studies consistently identify a much lower diagnosis rate among subgroups such as African-American and Latino children – despite little evidence of true differences in population prevalence across ethnic groups.

Studies have also documented significant ethnic disparities in care access. For instance, African-American and Latino children with autism receive less high-quality and family-centered care than Caucasians. Clearly, enhancing early detection and increasing access to evidence-based services for all children will require a concentrated focus on underserved communities.

What Are We Doing? 

  1. Launching an autism awareness campaign focused on Latino and African-American communities.
  2. Funding community-based research to determine the best models for increasing access to care.
  3. Developing a step-by-step guide for concerned parents.
  4. Sponsoring free community developmental screening and community awareness events. Click here for more info.
  5. Developing a coordinated partnership with federal and regional partners, including the CDC’s Learn the Signs. Act Early. campaign.
  6. Developing training opportunities for professionals to increase the use of evidence-based practices, both in person and web-based.
  7. Monitoring the average age of diagnosis with studies that can ensure we’re making real progress.
  8. Developing resources for professionals.

How Can You Help Ensure All Children Have Access to Quality Services?

  1. Sign up here to receive updates on Early Access to Care projects and activities, or to share with us how you’re helping to increase access to care.
  2. Distribute information to families and colleagues. We have created informational flyers for professionals and parents
  3. Screen the children in your practice for autism using the M-CHAT at 18 and 24 months. Access our online M-CHAT here.
  4. Learn how to talk to parents when you’re concerned that their child may be affected by autism. (See our Talking to Parents About Autism Kit here.)
  5. Connect families with your state’s Birth-to-Three and educational programs and refer them to Autism Speaks and its Autism Response Team for additional resources (888-288-4762; Español 888-772-9050; familyservices@autismspeaks.org). 
  6. Review and share these tips for early childcare providers to use with children with autism in everyday play activities. 

For an informational flyer on how clinicians, educators and other professionals can promote early access to care, click here. To view the flyer in black and white, click here.

As someone who works with families, we invite you to be a part of the Autism Speaks Early Access to Care Initiative. Please fill out this form or email eac@autismspeaks.org.

For more resources for professionals, click here.