The number of children in the United States diagnosed with autism is one in 150. In 1970, the rate of diagnosis was one in 10,000. This shift carries serious financial implications as states across the country attempt to provide and improve services to families affected by the disability.
The state of Nevada is no exception, which promoted the Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities to fund a two-phase, $125,000 research project to address the prevalence of autism and the need for diagnosis and treatment in the state.
Researchers reported findings from the study titled the "Nevada Autism Summit," to the council, March 6, 2007. The research collaboration with the Nevada University Center for Excellence in Disabilities (UCED) and the University of Nevada School of Medicine department of speech pathology and audiology produced recommendations for the State to effectively meet the current and future needs of families dealing with autism
"Nevadans have resoundingly requested access to valid information about autism, improved training opportunities and choices in quality services," said Candace Ganz, project director an UCED assistant director. "This is true for individuals with autism, family members, and service providers throughout Nevada and across the lifespan."
Project recommendations include the development of a state website called the Nevada Autism Network which would provide information to parents and health professionals about best practices in assessment and intervention.
Ganz and Debra Vigil, Ph.D., associate professor of speech pathology and audiology, called for the creation of multidisciplinary assessments teams, tools and services that encourage early detection and support for intervention and treatment in addition to setting community screening mechanisms in place.
Study findings included a recommendation for the provision of annual educational forums for both parents and health professionals to learn more about the signs, detection and treatment of autism.
Finally, Ganz and Vigil recommended increased legislative action to support the efforts of the Autism Coalition of Nevada to develop a bill that provides funding of services for individuals with 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 comprised of parents, advocates, and service providers from urban and rural communities. She 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.