Through the Combating Autism Act, Health Resources and Services Administration’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau awarded three-year implementation grants to 18 states to improve access to comprehensive, coordinated health care and related services for children, youth and adults with autism spectrum disorder and related developmental disabilities. Maternal and Child Health Bureau also awarded two-year planning grants to four states – including Georgia (PDF) – to develop plans to guide the next steps in supporting children with autism and their families.
The Center for Leadership in Disability at Georgia State University received the Georgia Autism Planning Grant in the fall of 2011. We worked with our Advisory Panel to design a structure for the plan, to organize input from varied stakeholders, and to generate preliminary recommendations for next steps that might be included in a future three-year implementation grant.
Our vision for Georgia is that high-quality, family and person-centered, comprehensive, and coordinated systems of services and supports are accessible and available to all children, youth and adults with autism and related disorders. These services and supports are community-based, geographically convenient, culturally and linguistically appropriate, and are designed to assist children to reach their full potential and improve their quality of life. These systems require financial support from federal, state, and local governments, as well as the private sector, which are more likely to be provided when the community understands their importance, views them as cost effective, and feels that they are being managed responsibly and transparently.
Structure for the Autism Plan for Georgia
We have organized this plan to address ten areas of activity that emerged from discussions with families, providers, and policy-makers; review of historical documents and related planning efforts in Georgia; the research literature; and examination of autism plans from other states. These ten areas include:
- Area 1: Early Identification & Screening
- Area 2: Referral & Diagnosis
- Area 3: Medical, Behavioral Health & Dental Services
- Area 4: Family Support
- Area 5: Early Intervention & Preschool Services
- Area 6: Elementary & Secondary Education
- Area 7: Community Services & Supports
- Area 8: Transition from Youth to Adult Systems
- Area 9: Adult Services & Supports
- Area 10: Emergency Preparedness & First Responders
For each of these areas, we developed:
- Definition – Specific to the Autism Plan for Georgia
- Quality Indicators – Statements describing desired systemic outcomes.
- Problem Statements – Specific issues of concern identified by stakeholders in Georgia. The area includes Parent Focus Group Comments which reflects input from parents, family members, and individuals with autism, and largely expands our understanding of the problems.
- Data Drivers – Documentation of the current status of this area in Georgia (when available) or the United States.
- Recommendations – Concrete options to address problems identified by parents, providers, and self-advocates. The recommendations reflect information and suggestions from the Autism Advisory Panel, Families, Self-Advocates, and State Autism Plans throughout the United States.
- Objectives – Specific details, which will eventually include a proposed timeline, of each recommendation. Objectives may include key organizations or activities involved in completing each recommendation.
In addition to the ten areas identified, five areas emerged as the foundational supports of a comprehensive Autism Plan that cut across many of the areas. The foundational areas are Workforce, Awareness, Informational Resources, Finances, and Policy. The foundational supports were considered in developing recommendations for each area.
Note: In the plan we have elected to use the term ‘autism’ to include autism spectrum disorders and related developmental disabilities.