Introducing the Washington Autism Alliance & Advocacy Family Navigation Online Training Module

By Maria Cortes, MSW Student, and Jen St. Cyr, Director of Family Services

December 18, 2017

At the Washington Autism Alliance & Advocacy (WAAA), we are excited for the opportunity to collaborate with partner agencies in Washington State through a generous autism-focused grant from the Washington State Department of Health made possible by AMCHP. A product of this collaboration is our new Family Navigation Online Training. You can find it here: 

The purpose of the module is to provide resources, and support family navigators to allow Washington Autism Alliance and Advocacy to be a known resource for medically underserved families with children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or a developmental disability (DD). It was created as a way to facilitate where and how families can find immediate answers to questions they may have. Health systems in the state of Washington are difficult to navigate by families who may be overwhelmed. Our hope is that through this readily accessible online format, both families and professionals can access essential information that we have collected over many years of research and advocacy. 

In the context of this project Family Navigators are professional staff members who are often the parent or primary caregiver for a child with special health care needs. They work directly with families and are also the bridge between different sets of providers and systems. Family Navigators provide or facilitate access to family-to-family support by listening to concerns and sharing experiences; focusing on strengths; modeling and coaching healthy coping strategies; locating and accessing community services and supports across multiple systems; helping families identify available treatment services and access health insurance coverage; providing guidance in navigating the education system; and building family knowledge and advocacy skills. 

Our goal is that families and professionals find the modules user friendly, with clear instructions, and easy to navigate. There is a lot of information for families who range from just starting to look for resources, for people who have been navigating systems for a long time, and anywhere in between. The module also provides a good foundation of what Washington Autism Alliance & Advocacy is about and the resources we provide. Within those resources, the modules are clear about next steps families and advocates can take. This module is readily accessible to Family Navigators and individuals interested in gathering information about advocating for individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities. 

This module has been developed over the course of several months and will be available from December 2017 through 2019. Our aim is to develop more training topics to include on the site for families and professionals to access. The Family Navigation Training module is available by going to  You can register on the site to access the training.  A certificate will be available at the end when you have completed all the sections.

Washington Autism Alliance and Advocacy is a personal advocate and legislative champion for children and adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) & other developmental disabilities (DD). Our mission is to ensure that all children and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD's) & other developmental disabilities (DD's) have every opportunity to thrive and become productive members of society. We do this by helping families access ASD & DD health insurance benefits, effective services in schools, and supportive community-based services, regardless of their personal financial situation.