"Research tells us that early diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and early intervention can change the child's developmental trajectory and increase positive life outcomes for children and families,” says ICI’s Jennifer Hall-Lande, MN Act Early Ambassador . “The MN Act Early team is supporting the development of a strong network of parent and community leaders in culturally and linguistically diverse communities of Minnesota to promote that early diagnosis and intervention.”
Act Early is a national network of agencies, organizations, and professionals (called Ambassadors) that utilize the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) "Learn the Signs. Act Early" (LTSAE) materials that promote early identification, screening, and intervention for ASD and related neurodevelopmental disabilities. The CDC selected Hall-Lande as Minnesota's Ambassador for Act Early in summer 2016, and during this past year she led the MN Act Early team in its work to share the LTSAE message with culturally and linguistically diverse communities.
Since 2012 the MN Act Early project at ICI has been funded by several agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs (AMCHP), and Association of University Centers on Disability (AUCD). The project has also received additional funding through a subcontract from the Minnesota Department of Health. It provided the initial training and LTSAE materials for over 100 delegates from the East African, Latino, Hmong, and Somali communities in Minnesota, whose outreach efforts continue. They are parents, community leaders, and MNLEND fellows who bring the message of the importance of early childhood screening and intervention to other parents, community members, educators, administrators, and faith leaders in culturally and linguistically diverse communities. With the addition of Hall-Lande’s leadership as Ambassador, this model of outreach provides a growing framework for efficient and broad dissemination of LTSAE information and coordinated screening efforts across the state.
On May 4, 2017, 26 graduate students, post-doctoral students, and community members received their Certificate of Completion recognizing the culmination of their year-long appointment with the Minnesota Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (MNLEND) Program of ICI. The MNLEND Fellow class of 2016-17 was the largest since the fellowships began in 2009. Each year the MNLEND, which is funded by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, selects outstanding graduate/postgraduate students and community members to become Fellows. In partnership with other departments, programs, and centers at the University, the MNLEND offers Fellows a unique interdisciplinary training experience that prepares them for leadership in serving children with autism spectrum disorder or other neurodevelopmental and related disabilities, and their families, in health care, education, human services, and policy settings.
When asked what they gained from their MNLEND experience, this year's cohort had much to say, including:
In July 2016, ICI received an Engaged Department Grant from the University of Minnesota’s Office for Public Engagement to conduct an intensive set of conversations with community partners throughout Minnesota under the themes “Make it Grow: Connecting Community and Research at ICI” and "Growing Community Connections." The focus of this work is to further engage with communities around new initiatives and action research in the area of early intervention and screening for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other neurodevelopmental disabilities.
“ICI has an ongoing commitment to ensuring that people with disabilities and their families are able to actively contribute to and inform the research that we conduct,” says project director Kelly Nye-Lengerman . “Through community-engaged research we address the real-world challenges that people face.”
The three primary outcomes of this one-year grant are:
Training topic areas included: