States Collaborate To Improve Identification and Intervention Systems for Children with ASDs at Act Early Summit in Region VIII

April 30, 2009

Tracy Mann, MA
2008 Association of University
Centers on Disabilities/
National Center on Birth Defects
and Developmental Disabilities Fellow

The Act Early Region VIII Summit was held March 5 and 6, 2009 in Salt Lake City, Utah. The summit brought together key state leaders from the early intervention and early childhood communities of Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming to develop state plans to improve the early identification of and intervention with children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and related developmental disabilities, as well as to improve access to diagnosis and early intervention. The summit was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) through a cooperative agreement with the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).

To accomplish the state planning needed, the Act Early Summits are a very intense and demanding 2 days of state team planning, presentations from federal and national agencies, and networking. A major strength of the regional summit model is the opportunity it affords individuals from neighboring states to communicate about the resources and needs in their states, as well as to learn about initiatives in other states that are trying to respond to similar challenges. Participants at the Region VIII Summit had the opportunity to hear from Paul Carbone, MD, FAAP, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Utah, and parent of a young child with autism. Dr. Carbone presented information about the pediatric medical home model and some initiatives being used in Utah to increase access to development assessments for children in the state. Co-director of the Kansas Instructional Support Network, Lee Stickle, MSEd, also shared outcomes of the Act Early Region VII Summit for the Kansas state team.

As the current AUCD Fellow at the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities at CDC, I had the unique opportunity to work with staff of the state of Wyoming in developing a logic model for how they will work as a team to improve their state's early identification and early intervention systems. The team included parents and family members and members from the early intervention, education, advocacy, and medical communities. Using a logic model planning tool, the team developed several goals and activities. One goal is to increase early identification in the state using CDC's "Learn the Signs. Act Early." campaign materials (available free at Other goals included efforts to improve systems coordination across the state and to develop partnerships with existing Wyoming agencies and organizations. During the summit, Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Utah also developed plans for improving their state systems. Among the goals these states developed are improving state data collection systems to capture age of diagnosis, disseminating awareness materials, developing a statewide task force or council, and addressing disparities in access to care.

As the Wyoming state plan facilitator, I was very impressed with the dedication of the Wyoming team-as well as with that of the teams from Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Utah-to the state team planning process to improve systems for children with autism and related disabilities and their families. I enjoyed the opportunity to hear the creative brainstorming of ideas for overcoming the state's challenges. The commitment to improving services for children with ASDs and related developmental disabilities became evident through the diversity of the team members' experiences and their desire for continued collaboration to meet their vision of improving "statewide early intervention, service provision, and coordination that ensures optimal developmental and health outcomes for children."

For more information about the "Learn the Signs. Act Early." campaign, please visit the website.