One in every 68 children has autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Delaware’s healthcare, education and adult services system faces numerous barriers to serving the growing number of children and adults with ASD, including lack of training for providers and families. CDS is committed to creating positive statewide systems changes through its new autism initiatives. This work is guided by the Blueprint for Collective Action, our state’s strategic plan for supporting children and adults with ASD and their families.

Building Bridges

Autism spectrum disorder can be identified at increasingly younger ages, and early intervention is crucial for social, educational, and occupational success. Yet, Delaware systems of care can be inefficient and lack specific expertise in ASD. As a result, families struggle to navigate the complex systems of providers and services and Delaware children, on average, receive a diagnosis 2.5 years after parental concern. These obstacles and others led to the creation of the Health Resource and Service Administration (HRSA)-funded “Building Bridges” project.

Over the project’s three years, CDS and its partners will focus on enhancing services for families of children under the age of three by: 1) creating a more coordinated and supportive system of care for families; 2) improving screening, evaluation, diagnosis and referral practices; and 3) increasing families’ knowledge and confidence in navigating the early childhood system.

Delaware Network for Excellence in Autism (DNEA)

The dramatic rise in autism has created significant challenges among schools, social agencies, hospitals and clinics across the state. People with ASD and their families struggle to identify reliable, expert services across settings and are often left without adequate care and resources.

The DNEA represents a statewide effort to build capacity across the state. Led by CDS, in partnership with organizations such as Autism Delaware, the Network provides training to organizations and agencies, as well as to families, to ensure stronger support for people who could benefit from it. Training is offered in a variety of fields and targets community members, from paraprofessionals and administrators to business owners and others who desire it, to create a more welcoming environment that’s understanding of ASD.

Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND)

Delaware’s growing capacity for serving people with ASD and their families requires a new generation of leaders to sustain and guarantee its future success.

The Delaware Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) training program is part of a national network of training programs for pre-professionals, professionals, self-advocates and family members that promotes interdisciplinary, culturally competent, family-centered care. A year-long intensive training program offers experiential learning opportunities for graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, family members and self-advocates, who work together to understand the most pressing challenges and develop innovative solutions. Trainees work with experts at the University of Delaware and Nemours/A.I. duPont Hospital for Children, and with self-advocates and families in their homes and natural environments, as they are tasked with considering how they will contribute as future leaders in their field.