On May 5, 17 Fellows completed their year-long appointment with the MN LEND (Minnesota Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities), an affiliated center of ICI directed by Amy Hewitt . Each year the MN LEND, which is funded by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, selects a small group of outstanding graduate/postgraduate students and community members to become LEND Fellows. In partnership with 15 other academic departments and programs at the University of Minnesota, the MN LEND offers Fellows a unique interdisciplinary training experience that prepares them for leadership in serving children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), other neurodevelopmental and related disabilities, and their families in health care, education, human services, and policy settings.
When asked what they gained from their MN LEND experience, the responses of this year’s Fellows made it clear that this experience has been milestone event for many of them. As one Fellow observed, “LEND taught me the importance of a multidisciplinary approach in providing care for individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities. The clinical rotation was an experience of a lifetime…” Said another, “[I had] so many experiences that I would have never gained if I stayed in my program bubble. The best experiences were interacting in clinics and with the people they served. I would never have been able to see things first-hand and know how my field could have impact on these families.” And yet another, “The greatest impact has come from the heartfelt and genuine stories from parents and families that we visited as well as those within our group. These perspectives have re-shaped my own view and this has impacted the way I work with families in the clinic every day.”
The number of Act Early delegates trained by ICI’s Minnesota Act Early project since its launch in 2012 grew to over 75 this year, including delegates from the East African, Latino, Hmong, and Somali communities of Minnesota. They are parents, community leaders, and LEND fellows who have been trained to conduct outreach on the importance of early childhood screening and intervention for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other neurodevelopmental disabilities to parents, community members, educators, administrators, and faith leaders in culturally and linguistically diverse communities. With renewed funding for two more years from the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs through a subcontract from the Minnesota Department of Health, Minnesota Act Early continued to grow its work to equip leaders who are known and trusted by their communities in this vital outreach to their peers, especially increasing and integrating parent-led developmental monitoring in diverse communities.
This work, which is directed by Jennifer Hall-Lande , is laying the foundation for the coming two years in which the project will emphasize building and establishing a coordinated statewide model for ongoing outreach within communities, and integrating the model into parent organizations and larger systems to ensure its sustainability. Fellows in the Minnesota LEND (Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities Program) of ICI played a significant role in this outreach work this year: One Fellow created a video in Somali to reach more families on the importance of early screening and intervention for their children, and another created a similar video in Oromo for Ethiopian parents, both of which are now available online.
In 2016, ICI completed its first year as part of the nationwide Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As an ADDM site it joined a team of researchers around the country who are increasing knowledge about the population of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other developmental disabilities in the U.S. The role of the ADDM project at ICI is to conduct a four-year study of the prevalence of ASD and intellectual disability among 8-year-old children in two counties of the Twin Cities metropolitan area. This new research, under the direction of Jennifer Hall-Lande , Amy Hewitt and Amy Esler , builds on an earlier landmark study at ICI that estimated the prevalence of ASD among Somali and non-Somali children in Minneapolis – the largest project to date to look at the number and characteristics of Somali children with ASD in any U.S. community.
The new project will help many groups (policymakers, service providers, educators, advocates, families, and researchers) better understand prevalence differences among immigrant and diverse populations – including Minnesota’s Hmong and Somali populations, which are the largest in the nation – and better plan for services to meet the needs of children and families from diverse communities. As part of its activities this year, the Minnesota researchers reviewed over 1,400 education and clinical source records of 8-year-olds in the two counties to identify those with ASD and other developmental disabilities. The review also identified other characteristics of those children, including ethnicity, co-occurring conditions, and age of diagnosis; this was a beginning step not only in documenting prevalence, but also in recognizing disparities in areas such as age of diagnosis that can help inform early intervention outreach.
Training topic areas included: