Assessing and Responding to Autism in Underserved Populations

Thursday, May 17, 2012
Sheraton Hall (Sheraton Centre Toronto)
1:00 PM
M. M. McCloat, Autism Speaks and College of the Holy Cross, Easton, CT

Autism Speaks Global Autism Public Health Initiative (GAPH) is a program designed to strategically determine the unique needs of autism communities around the world, striving to better understand and develop approaches to addressing challenges in autism awareness, research, and services in autism communities around the world.  As the reported prevalence of autism continues to rise around the globe, so does the demand for information about and services to treat the disorder.

Objectives: The aim of the current project is to make recommendations for GAPH based on the successful elements of existing health service programs in other disorders that can potentially inform the development of autism-specific programs and ultimately provide sustainable healthcare programs for underserved communities, both in developed and developing countries.


Specifically, an extensive literature review on existing autism services research and, more broadly, services research in other health conditions including non-communicable diseases, mental health, and developmental disabilities was conducted to identifying successful and potentially transferable elements of these programs.


The results of this project included the identification of common barriers prohibiting autism program development in underserved communities, including access issues, lack of education, cultural stigma and language barriers.  Thus possible solutions to developing successful programs that reach underserved communities around the globe may include community-centered kiosks to improve screening, urban and rural healthcare partnerships between academic centers and primary care providers, community representatives and tracking databases.


Additional recommendations include the alliance of local autism community stakeholders including government to prioritize, develop and support innovative solutions that successfully and sustainably increase access to autism specific programs among the underserved. This report will allow Autism Speaks to make strategic funding decisions in supporting programs that will be most effective and have the greatest reach globally.

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