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Among other things, I learned about the importance of building relationships with community partners to increase ASD awareness.
The growing prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) is a call to action for public health professionals to address stigma and barriers to care by developing innovative solutions that fit the needs of the communities affected by ASD. I had the opportunity to work with the public health team at Autism Speaks in New York City on its Early Access to Care Initiative. The goal is to lower the age of diagnosis and increase access to high-quality, evidence-based interventions for all children with ASD.
Through this initiative, I took part in two community partnership projects. The New York City Korean Community Autism Project aims to increase awareness of early warning signs for ASD and link Korean families to local evidence-based services that are linguistically and culturally sensitive. It is a partnership project among the Korean community in the greater New York area, a research team from the University of Pennsylvania, and Autism Speaks. The Community-Partners Developmental Screening Events Project seeks to provide access to services related to the early identification and early intervention of ASD in communities across the United States. Events provide families – particularly from underserved ethnic minority populations – with the opportunity to receive free developmental screenings, meet with expert clinicians to discuss developmental concerns, and be linked with local resources and services recommended by the clinicians.
My field studies placement at Autism Speaks in New York City proved to be an invaluable learning experience that instilled my passion for autism public health work. Among other things, I learned about the importance of building relationships with community partners to increase ASD awareness. And I learned how we, as public health professionals, are best equipped to further examine the causes of ASD and develop cost-effective and culturally sensitive services that meet the urgent needs of the autism community.