Autism Update: ADEP Initiative Shows Positive Outcomes

During Autism Awareness Month, Pipeline shares information about efforts by DODD and our partners to learn more, diagnose earlier, and provide new training opportunities for families and professionals. People who have Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) have many gifts, along with some challenges. We celebrate these gifts, while learning to understand the challenges.

In January 2013, DODD and the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) together announced plans for an expansion of the Autism Diagnostic Education Project  (ADEP), statewide. Begun as a pilot project, and supported through the commitment of ODH and the Ohio Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the pilot launched nearly 30 Diagnostic Partnership teams. These teams brought together the expertise of physicians and Early Intervention professionals to ensure timely and comprehensive diagnostic evaluations at the earliest signs of ASD.

Several positive outcomes resulted from the Diagnostic Partnership teams — most significantly, the lag time was reduced between the initial suspicion of autism affecting a child, and the actual diagnosis.

The expansion, funded through the Office of Health Transformation Innovation Fund, now provides training to pediatricians and early interventionists to better coordinate efforts for ASD diagnostic evaluations. Specialized Early Intervention training also has been expanded to include best practices that nurture the parent/child relationship. In addition, funding helps to support a study that will explore the impact of nutrition and wellness for children with ASD.

Since the ADEP expansion was announced in 2013, Ohio has forged ahead to build local capacity for the early diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Now including 47 participating counties, 300 children have been evaluated. According to DODD Autism Project Manager and Family Liaison Tom Hess,

A key goal of the project is to lower the age of ASD diagnosis to 30 months or less – which we have done!  Considering the national average for the age of diagnosis hovers around four years of age, this a tremendous achievement for Ohio and the approximately 350 County Board staff members, Help Me Grow service coordinators, and various medical providers involved in the project.”

Under the collaborative umbrella including DODD, the Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence (OCALI), Akron Children’s Hospital, and the Family/Child Learning Center, ADEP now is focused on not only sustaining and maintaining the current teams, but also addressing the diagnostic needs of counties and families in parts of Ohio that may not yet have local options available to them. Contact Tom Hess for more information about ADEP: 614-466-7480, or