Autism Speaks partners with The Color of Autism Foundation to support caregivers of autistic children in Detroit

Pamela Dixon

Families and caregivers in underserved, minority communities often struggle to access quality care, education and services for their autistic children. The World Health Organization (WHO) Caregiver Skills Training (CST) program is designed to support these families by giving them the skills and knowledge they need to care for their child’s unique needs and challenges. Now, Autism Speaks is partnering with The Color of Autism Foundation to deliver the CST program to families in Detroit, MI. 

In this Q&A, Pamela Dixon, Director of Clinical Services and Inclusion at Autism Speaks, discusses how Autism Speaks and The Color of Autism Foundation are collaborating to increase access to quality care among minority autism communities in Detroit. 

What are the biggest challenges facing autistic people of color in Detroit? How is The Color of Autism Foundation helping to meet the needs of this community? 

There are a lot of African American and Latino families in Michigan, but a scarcity of resources to serve these families. Many people struggle to access the knowledge, services and care that they need. Even though there’s mandated insurance coverage for autism services and therapies like applied behavior analysis (ABA) in the state of Michigan, providers can be difficult to access and often lack the cultural competency to serve these communities well.  

Sometimes, families elect not to continue services because communication is too difficult between them and their providers. The Color of Autism Foundation helps families overcome these challenges by teaching them what to expect and how to navigate service systems. They help families make decisions to ensure they receive the best quality care possible. 

Can you tell me about Autism Speaks’ partnership with The Color of Autism Foundation? 

Autism Speaks is partnering with The Color of Autism Foundation to implement the CST program in Detroit. We secured some funding from Michigan organizations to pilot the CST program among a handful of families in the Detroit area.  

The Color of Autism Foundation is helping us identify providers who can lead the trainings and recruit families to participate. We expect to have the providers fully trained in May so we can begin the sessions with families. 

The Foundation is also engaging a parent advisory group that will adapt two of our Autism Speaks resources to be more culturally specific for African American families. The group will evaluate the resources through their lens and suggest changes to make them more accessible to the Black community. 

What does the CST program look like? 

The CST program consists of nine group sessions and individual home visits led by trained non-specialists, such as community-based workers or educators. The program takes a family-oriented approach and is focused on training caregivers how to use daily routines and play as opportunities for learning and development. The sessions will focus on social engagement, communication, daily living skills, behavior management, and caregiver self-care and problem solving. 

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