Autism Awareness Month: How Do We Reach Every Child with Autism in Kansas?

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What comes to mind when you think about the month of April? First thoughts may include spring flowers, rain showers, or the height of allergy season in Kansas. For those of us working with children, we may also think about autism, for April is the month to become more aware of this disorder that affects 1 in 68 children.

Over the years, Autism Awareness Month has become more recognized across the world. In Kansas, the Technical Assistance Network (TASN) – Autism & Tertiary Behavior Supports, works to raise awareness and provide support every day to local communities through our efforts supported by both the Kansas State Department of Education and the Kansas Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund.

Early intervention is critical to improving outcomes for children with autism, but, without reliable diagnosis tools, it can be difficult to reach all the children who could benefit from these services. Seven years ago, our team met this challenge by setting an ambitious goal: to provide timely and accessible autism spectrum disorder diagnostic services to all children in Kansas through a systematic model. With support from KU Medical Center’s Center for Child Health & Development (CCHD) and KU Medical Center’s Center for Telemedicine and Telehealth, we have since trained over 50 teams from school districts and Tiny-K Infant-Toddler networks to provide evidence-based evaluations in their communities for children who have screened positive for autism spectrum disorder. With the support of CCHD, the teams and families connect via Telemedicine for the final diagnostic impressions and, as a collaborative medical, educational, and family team, create a plan of recommendations for the child.

The impact of our model surprises us every day. We now have teams in 100 out of 105 counties in Kansas. We have helped over 569 children and their families. With our funding partners, we have decreased costs. While we are proud of these statistics, we are more honored to work with dedicated professionals, loving parents, and incredible children. As we continue to improve, our families and children are #1 to us. In a recent Parent Satisfaction Survey, one parent summarized her family’s experience stating, “It was not the diagnosis I was expecting, but the wake-up call I needed.” For us, that is awareness and acceptance!

Sarah A. Hoffmeier, LMSW
Family Services & Training Coordinator
TASN Autism & Tertiary Behavior Supports