Autism Speaks Early Access to Care initiative seeks to reduce the age of diagnosis and increase access to high-quality early intervention for all children on the autism spectrum.
Studies demonstrate that signs of autism emerge as early as 6 to 12 months. Thanks to research, we have effective tools for screening children for autism risk as early as one year. Diagnosis can be made by age two. Yet the average age of diagnosis remains stubbornly close to five years. It’s still higher in some ethnic minority communities. Even after diagnosis, many families lack access to effective early intervention therapies.
In March 2012, Autism Speaks convened a meeting of families, pediatricians, policy makers, clinicians and researchers. Experts from outside of autism, including the field of breast cancer, shared what they’d learned about improving early detection and access to services. Representatives from several departments of Autism Speaks likewise attended to help identify ways to promote earlier diagnosis and access to effective intervention.
Family empowerment emerged as a common theme. Indeed, research shows that greater family engagement improves outcomes. Pediatricians likewise play a central role in autism screening and services. Enhancing physician awareness and skills became a priority of the initiative, as did their ability to connect families with autism services in their communities.
It also became clear that we must harness the potential of technology, including smart phones, iPads and video conferencing. Such tools may prove especially important for improving access to services in underserved communities such as rural areas.
To date, the Early Access to Care initiative has invested in several crucial areas, including the following:
* New and more accurate estimates of autism’s costs and how these costs can be reduced by lowering the age of detection and improving access to early intervention. (See grants here.)
* Updated and improved estimates of autism prevalence in the United States, based on more comprehensive sampling methods. (See grants here.)
* Web-based training for professionals that will enhance the quality of community services. (See grant here.)
Para un "Early Access to Care" volante que puede compartir con los pediatras y los grupos de la comunidad, haga clic aquí. (Spanish)
For more information, also see these related news stories and blog posts:
Autism Speaks Early Access to Care initiative integrates the organization’s many areas of activity and enlists the partnership of outside organizations including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics.