Member to Member

In recognition of Autism Awareness Month, AMCHP asked the State Implementation Grantees funded through the Combating Autism Act Initiative, to answer the following question:

What is your team doing to raise awareness about autism in your state?

Kristine Greene
Alaska Department of Health and Social Services 

We have made a concerted effort to create a wide variety of activities around Autism Awareness Month, including: 

1.     To educate providers, Dr. Cowan will deliver educational presentations through Grand Rounds in five locations and seven general public informational presentations;

2.     To entertain kids and families, we have organized Wii tournaments for children affected by autism, movie nights, autism night at bouncing bears (an inflatable gym), parents support group meetings, and a social club for siblings of children with autism;

3.     To fundraise, we have planned three walks for autism to support the statewide parents support group, the Golden heart Chapter of Autism Speaks, Alaska and three book fairs to purchase books for autism libraries that distribute books to families in need; and

4.     To raise awareness, we have scheduled radio shows, developed press releases, and organized families to tell their stories. 

To learn more and to see a schedule of planned events, visit here.

The Autism Program (TAP) of Illinois
Carolyn Kopel
IMPACC Project Coordinator, The Hope School 

Although TAP provides year-round awareness about Autism Spectrum Disorders, April is a very special month to help others understand the challenges, opportunities and achievements associated with Autism. TAP Service Network partners, with the help of local organizations, community members and public officials, offer diagnosis, treatment, support groups and resources to improve the lives of persons with an ASD and their families. Below are many of the events and activities TAP Service Network partners are coordinating to promote Autism Awareness. 

  • Central Illinois National Public Radio Purchased Service Announcements
    Due to a generous donation, six radio announcements will be aired on behalf of Autism Awareness month
  • Public Service Announcements – Capitol Radio Group
    A PSA will be aired throughout April promoting Autism Awareness and TAP services
  • Other Media Outlet Activities
    Media will be presented with Share Your Story cards from participating families who have used TAP services to inspire others (including newspaper, radio and TV media)
  • April TAP Legislative Mailing
    TAP’s April legislative mailing, sent to all members of the Illinois General Assembly, provided information on April as Autism Awareness Month and how to support funding to continue Autism programs and services
  • Consensus for Autism Family Connection initiative launch
    An initiative by TAP to connect families with their local legislators in order to provide first-person accounts of the challenges, achievements of living with a child diagnosed with an ASD and the impact that funding has for Autism programs and services. 

In addition, TAP has planned many Autism Awareness Month activities for children, families, and advocates. For more information about these activities, please visit here 

Katie Dunne
Thompson Center at the University of Missouri

The State Implementation Grant team in Missouri has planned a full schedule of activities to recognize Autism Awareness Month. The events kicked off in late March with the Autism Intervention Conference hosted by the Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders at the University of Missouri. This conference offered presentations by more than 60 speakers and included numerous workshops on topics related to State Implementation objectives, including screening for ASD, navigating the system of care, and transition to adulthood. During the same week, Dr. Daniel Coury, director of the HRSA Autism Intervention Research-Physical (AIR-P) initiative, delivered a free community education presentation about the Autism Treatment Network and strategies for improving the health care of individuals with ASD. The University of Missouri Thompson Center is a member of this national research network.

Additional Autism Awareness Month activities focus on the third week in April. On April 20th, the Thompson Center will sponsor the first event in its Exceptional Achievements Series. Hosted by Tim Page, a Pulitzer Prize winning music critic with Asperger’s syndrome, this series focuses on individuals who have overcome developmental challenges to make significant achievements. This year’s guest speaker is John Elder Robison, author of the best-selling memoir Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s. The event also features a youth panel to discuss transition issues. On April 21st, two autism advocacy groups (MO-FEAT and Autism Speaks-St. Louis Chapter) will host an Autism 101 Speaker Panel at Washington University in St. Louis. The event features a parent-professional educational meeting and an opportunity for families to ask questions of the experts. Finally, the It’s in the Cards dinner gala and auction takes place on April 23rd. This event helps raise awareness about autism spectrum disorders and the key role that the Thompson Center plays in making a difference in the lives of children and families affected by autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders. KMOX broadcaster Charlie Brennan will serve as the emcee and attendees will hear the inside scoop on the 2009 St. Louis Cardinals from manager Tony La Russa. Funds from the event benefit the Thompson Foundation, which supports the Missouri Autism Guidelines Initiative (MAGI) effort to establish best practice guidelines for autism in Missouri. 

Rebecca Giles
Autism Program Manager, Utah Department of Health

The Utah ASD Implementation Project will be raising awareness about autism throughout the state over the next three years. The Utah Department of Health and key partners will implement projects to train pediatricians, family practice physicians, dentists, early childhood educators, and early intervention specialists. The project will also increase access to information and community resources for providers and families. Utah Family Voices is expanding to recruit and train family advocates to provide families throughout the state with support coordination. The ASD page on the Medical Home’s website has been updated to better support and educate families and providers. Through these efforts, community providers will increase capacity for early recognition of signs of ASD to improve referral, diagnosis, and treatment.  

Carol Miller
Washington Department of Health 

As part of Washington State’s Autism Awareness: Partnership for Change grant activities we used an autism awareness exercise at one of our Combating Autism Advisory Council meetings to spread awareness throughout those agencies and organizations that are not autism specific in their work. This also worked as a “get to know who you are” exercise for the diverse membership of stakeholders with a resulting lively discussion on planned activities and other possible strategies for work. We developed two sets of useful information: 

1) Planned community activities around Autism Awareness Month include: partnering with Barnes and Noble bookstore to hold a book fair and panel discussion on autism; mayor’s proclamation declaring April 2 as Autism Awareness Day; workshops coinciding with autism awareness month; a community event to highlight ‘a day in the life of a person with autism; campaign to get children into services while waiting for diagnostic outcomes. Definite Washington State Department of Health plans include agency brown bag lunch with presentation on Learn the Signs: Act Early and updates on autism grant activities, and display cases and tables with information in four buildings.  

2) Suggestions for what could be done: solicit a public library to engage in activities on autism awareness, develop email blasts, mass media announcements, messages on bulletin boards and electronic “reader boards”, create advertisements on public transit, taglines on council member emails, lobby displays, press releases, target radio and TV messages, post autism awareness materials at conferences in April, and make a website and list serve messages. It was noted that Autism Speaks has links that provide possible public awareness messages in different languages. A final strong suggestion was for grant staff to prepare advance information on the subject, with canned language that members of the council can disseminate.  

Amy Whitehead
Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services

Wisconsin has several ongoing activities to increase awareness and education about ASD. The Regional Training Centers have been a particularly successful activity. Wisconsin has five Regional Centers for Children with Special Health Care Needs which provide training and outreach as part of the State Implementation Grant. The Northeast Region developed packets developed for primary care practice sites. These packets contain key fact sheets on early identification of children with ASD. Additionally, the packets also provide information on how the Regional Center can be a referral point for community services. These packets have been useful tools for the Regional Center staff who meet with primary care practice sites to advance the concepts of Medical Home and increase awareness on ASD.