Impressions From The Act Early Region VIII Summit

April 6, 2009

By Norbert Soke, LEND Trainee, URLEND

I was impressed by the presentation from the key note speaker who is a pediatrician, former LEND trainee and a parent of a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and currently involved in different aspects of ASD in his community. This was inspirational for me as a current LEND fellow and also a parent because it showed the importance of the LEND program in training the next generation of community leaders in ASD and other developmental disabilities.

I was impressed during the state's presentations to see how much similarities in the challenges states were facing (lack of coordination of services, disparities in access of services, lack of qualified personnel). It was also fascinating to see the similarity in the different initiatives taken to tackle these challenges (Autism commissions and task forces, insurance laws to cover services, Medical home projects). As a LEND trainee, it was also an opportunity to meet other trainees and learn about their programs and future plans for leadership.

When different states presented their plans for the coming months and years, I was encouraged by the engagement of different stakeholders to work together to reduce the age of diagnosis and the starting time for intervention, and also by their commitment to finding ways to coordinate both educational and non-educational services and train professionals.

One of the closing remarks was that the summit should not be seen as an event but a milestone and there is a need for continuity in collaborative efforts between states; future meetings should be organized for evaluation purposes.

I strongly encourage LEND fellows to participate and ask AUCD and LEND program directors to find ways to increase fellows participation in future summits.