UMass Medical School-E.K. Shriver Center, parent
Throughout the month of April, we’ve heard from members of the Massachusetts Act Early state team who have shared heartfelt stories about why identifying autism and other developmental disorders matters to them.
Who We Are
Our team is made up of parents, medical professionals, educators, autism resource specialists, human services program managers, public health practitioners, university faculty and many others.
We lead an interdisciplinary, collaborative statewide effort “to educate parents and professionals about healthy childhood development, early warning signs of autism and other developmental disorders, the importance of routine developmental screening and timely early intervention whenever there is a concern.”
What We Do
Our statewide coalition works to strengthen state and community systems for the early identification and intervention of children with signs of developmental disabilities, such as autism spectrum disorders.
The coalition envisions a future that uses a family-centered model that overcomes geographic, socioeconomic, cultural, and linguistic barriers to assure equal access to developmental screening for all children in the Commonwealth. This mission and vision drives every action Mass Act Early takes to make a critical difference in the lives of children and their families.
Our current goals include:
- Public outreach to increase awareness of autism spectrum and related disorders.
- Training for early childhood, health care, and educational professionals.
- Shortening the wait times between screening and diagnosis as well as diagnosis and intervention.
- Developing culturally competent autism screening materials and training curricula for early childhood educators, community health centers and pediatric practices across Massachusetts.
Our web site at www.maactearly.org contains free downloadable materials about healthy developmental milestones in young children for families, early childhood professionals, and health care providers.
Most of these materials were developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC developed them for the national “Learn the Signs. Act Early” public awareness program, of which the MA Act Early initiative is the local state chapter.
Additionally, the CDC‘s online Autism Case Training (ACT) course covers identifying, diagnosing, and managing autism spectrum disorders. There are three modules, which can be taken separately or together. They are based on real-life scenarios and include up-to-date information, illustrative videos, and pertinent references and resources.
Free continuing education credits (CME, CNE, and CEU) are available for each of the modules.
Our Priority: Cultural and Linguistic Equity in Massachusetts
The MA Act Early state team has set a priority of reducing early identification disparities for families who are from culturally, ethnically, and linguistically diverse backgrounds, particularly if their primary language is not English.
To that end, we have developed the “Considering Culture in Autism Screening” guide and toolkit which includes a clinician’s tips guide, a Massachusetts resource sheet “Referrals at a Glance”, and the validated M-CHAT screening tool in five languages. It also comes with instructions, a scoring sheet and the follow-up interview.
Make Early Identification Your Goal Too!
Visit the MA Act Early website often. “Like” us on Facebook and help spread the word!
Early identification may be important to any of us. It could be due to skyrocketing prevalence rates, a beloved family member living with an autism spectrum disorder, a sense of profound professional purpose to improve the quality of life or any number of other reasons.
Whatever raises your own concerns about early identification, please join us in making a lasting difference. Positive outcomes are within our reach!
The blog post above was first published on May 1, 2013 at the New England INDEX Disability Info Blog at www.disabilityinfo.org/blog. We are happy to republish it here for our readers.