Candace Ganz, assistant director of the Nevada University Center for Excellence in Disabilities, and Debra Vigil, associate professor of speech pathology and audiology, presented findings from the Nevada Autism Summit to the Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities, March 6.
Project recommendations include the development of a state website to be called the Nevada Autism Network, which would provide information to parents and health professionals about best practices in assessment and intervention.
They also called for the creation of multidisciplinary assessment teams, tools and services that encourage early detection and support for intervention and treatment in addition to setting community screening mechanisms in place.
Ganz and Vigil's research was conducted as a joint collaboration between the Center for Excellence in Disabilities and the University of Nevada School of Medicine department of speech pathology and audiology.
"Nevadans have resoundingly requested access to valid information about autism, improved training opportunities and choices in quality services," said Ganz, Nevada Autism Summit project director. "This is true for individuals with autism, family members, and service providers throughout Nevada and across the lifespan."
Findings from the study also led researchers to recommend the provision of annual educational forums for both parents and health professionals to learn more about the signs, detection and treatment of autism.
"Considering the documented increase of autism diagnoses, it is imperative that the state provide both guidance and services for individuals with autism," Vigil said.
Vigil chaired the project's 20-member steering committee made up of parents, advocates, and service providers from urban and rural communities and has established the University Autism Assessment Clinic in the medical school's Speech and Hearing Clinic to provide services to families who desperately need support.
Investigators surveyed more than 700 families and providers to compile the report. Data including assessment and intervention practices, health, education, transition, vocation, recreation, and independent/supported living issues, from both family and service provider perspectives were compiled to complete the Nevada Autism Summit.