New Dynamic Website Focuses on Total Child Health for Iowa's Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs, their Families, and Providers

April 20, 2016

The Iowa Regional Autism Assistance Program (RAP) collaborated with Iowa's Systems Integration Grant to create a new robust website, IowaChildHealthConnections.org. This dynamic website focuses on total child health for Iowa's children and youth with a special health care need, their families, and the providers who care for them.

The website is interactive and includes information on prevention, assessment, early identification, diagnosis, early intervention, care coordination, family-to-family support, quality improvement, health policy, and measurement. The website includes road maps for families and providers and can be accessed in various languages. Road map topics for families include: Diagnosis, Early Childhood, Education, Financing/Benefits, Transition, Legal Issues, Education, Family Support, and Assistive Technology. Road map topics for providers include: Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs, Building a Medical Home, Screening and Prevention, Diagnosis Information, Transition, and Medical Technology. There is a searchable database containing thousands of services available to Iowa children with special health care needs.

The website was designed to enhance the system of care from the perspective of both providers and families and functions as a dynamic hub for information and resources that will be regularly updated. The Autism page was partially built on the Centers for Disease Controls and Prevention (CDC) Learn the Signs. Act Early. initiative, and links to the CDC website to provide up-to-date information for both families and providers.

The website has the additional benefit of assembling and organizing information on existing Iowa-specific resources through an interactive state map. In this way, the portal provides parents, community partners, and healthcare providers with a single, easy to navigate, initial source for information and resources about Autism Spectrum Disorder and other Developmental Delays (ASD/DD).

Providing an interactive internet-based resource site that is accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week was an important aspect in addressing the disparity in resources across Iowa. Many families were already gathering information from the internet, particularly in rural areas of Iowa where local resources may be difficult or even impossible to locate independently. Not only does the family-focused portal have access to Iowa-specific community-based resources, it also offers guidance on how to access more specialized services. It specifically recognizes Iowa's community-based organizations and family-to-family resources and advocacy groups, such as the Iowa Autism Society, and the University of Iowa Children's Hospital Autism Center.

Information about the Iowa-ASD/DD website is currently being disseminated through existing Autism-related channels, as well as through social media outlets. RAP has established presence on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest and is promoting information and resources as is appropriate to the format of each social media platform. Facebook and Twitter are being used to link to information on the Portal, as well as provide timely updates on services, events, and opportunities of interest to providers and families. The Facebook page also has the potential to foster connections between families and allow them to connect with one another. The Pinterest site is family-focused, as is appropriate to that medium. These social media campaigns are designed around topical themes, such as increasing awareness about available resources in Iowa or understanding the signs that a child may have ASD/DD. Throughout the month of April, there are daily postings to promote Autism Awareness month.

Future website development plans are to develop a YouTube channel to assist with providing education to families and service providers. Please visit this dynamic website at: www.iowachildhealthconnections.org.

For questions regarding the Iowa Regional Autism Assistance program, please contact Peggy Swails, MSW, Program Manager, at peggy-swails@uiowa.edu.