Act Early Region IVA: Tennessee Perspective

January 27, 2009

Act Early Summit promotes planning to improve autism service systems

by Jan Rosemergy
Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, Vanderbilt University

Teams of key stakeholders from Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, and South Carolina met January 8-9 at the Act Early Summit for Region 4A, one of a series of regional summits jointly sponsored by the National Center for Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) at Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), and facilitated by the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD).

The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center and the University of Tennessee Boling Center for Developmental Disabilities were the Summit local hosts and were instrumental in forming the Tennessee team, with the support of the Governor's Office of Children's Care Coordination (GOCCC). Both are University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDDs) and both have Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) programs, key players in the nationwide effort to enhance the identification, assessment, service coordination and provision of services for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and other developmental disabilities.

"The Summit was an exciting opportunity to come together with key stakeholders in Tennessee and their counterparts in our region to share, discuss, and learn from each other," said Terri Urbano, M.P.H., Ph.D., professor of Clinical Pediatrics, director of the MIND Training Program (LEND), and director of health and mental health and of training for the VKC UCEDD.

Among the 80 meeting participants were 22 on Tennessee's team. In addition to Urbano, Vanderbilt University participants were Tyler Reimschisel, M.D., assistant professor of Pediatrics and Neurology, director of the Division of Developmental Medicine and Cognition, and LEND associate director; and Wendy Stone, Ph.D., professor of Pediatrics and Psychology and director of the VKC Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders and the Vanderbilt Autism Treatment Network.

Under the leadership of Fred Palmer, M.D., director of the UT Boling Center, and in collaboration with the GOCCC, the Tennessee team met in advance of the Summit and developed a vision statement and inventoried state resources. By the conclusion of the Summit, each state team had identified activities to achieve their vision, prioritized those activities, and identified individuals to lead those activities in the coming year. States will report their progress periodically through their UCEDD and LEND programs to AUCD.

The Tennessee team will target four activities: continuing team meetings, promoting statewide public awareness using the CDC Act Early materials, training preservice professionals and community professionals through the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center and Boling Center LEND programs, and supporting family participation in the improvement and expansion of the ASD service system.