Early Intervention + ASD
Working to provide rich training programs for University of Minnesota students and community leaders, robust autism spectrum disorder (ASD) research in underserved communities, education about the importance of early intervention, as well as participation in the University of Minnesota’s Autism Initiative, which brings researchers together from across campus who have an interest in ASD.

Highlights from the Year

MN Act Early Supports Early Autism Intervention for Diverse Minnesota Families

Photo of Jennifer Hall-Lande, Barb Dalbec and Katy Schalia-Lesiak. Jennifer Hall-Lande, MN Act Early Ambassador ICI’s Jennifer Hall-Lande (center) served as Minnesota’s Act Early Ambassador this year. Accompanied in the photo by Minnesota Department of Health colleagues Barb Dalbec (right) and Katy Schalia-Lesiak, she worked with a team that helps increase knowledge about the early signs of autism and other neurodevelopmental disabilities in children around the state.

ICI’s Jennifer Hall-Lande (center) served as Minnesota’s Act Early Ambassador this year. Accompanied here by Minnesota Department of Health colleagues Barb Dalbec (right) and Katy Schalia-Lesiak, she worked with a team that helps increase knowledge about the early signs of autism and other neurodevelopmental disabilities in children around the state.

"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.

Largest-Ever Class of MNLEND Fellows Completes a Transformative Year

Photo of the Minnesota LEND Fellow class of 2016/17

The MNLEND Fellow class of 2016/17 gathered for a final group photo as they celebrated completion of the program in May 2017.

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:

  • “Overall LEND provided both a breadth and depth [of insight] into the disability world that it would have taken decades to acquire otherwise.”
  • “I learned so much about different disciplines and family's experiences that has given me a more holistic approach toward caring for my patients.”
  • “The experience I gained during the LEND program will improve my chance to advocate for my son and others affected by autism: I am a parent with a purpose.”
  • “My year with LEND has shown me how compassion, dedication, and curiosity can connect all people; LEND is a beautiful example of how multiple viewpoints are imperative in creative problem solving.”

ICI Awarded University Funds to Increase Community Engagement in Early Intervention Research and Education

Photo of ICI’s Kelly Nye-Lengerman leading a community workshop on early intervention research and education.

As part of its commitment to community engaged research, this year ICI organized gatherings of community members, advocates, educators, and researchers from around Minnesota that explored next steps in making full community inclusion the new norm for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

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:

  • Strengthening of existing community partnerships and creation of new collaborations between ICI and local diverse communities around early screening, identification, and intervention for ASD and other developmental delays. These collaborative partnerships will establish an ongoing venue for facilitating dialogue between ICI and diverse communities regarding effective training, research, practice, and policy.
  • Improved knowledge and capacity within ICI for community-based participatory research and community-based outreach, with a special focus on integrating this into training for MNLEND fellows and increasing their involvement in projects that meet valuable and ongoing community needs.
  • Increased effectiveness in conducting community-based intervention in the areas of early developmental screening, early identification, and early intervention, significantly increasing outreach about and awareness of the early signs of developmental disabilities within culturally diverse communities of Minnesota.


MNLEND Fellow Education in 2016/17

Graphic illustrating 17 LEND fellows trained in 27 topic reas and sharing knowledge with their communities.

Training topic areas included:

  • ASD assessment and screening
  • Assistive technology and augmentative communication
  • Audiological assessment and hearing loss
  • Culture and disability
  • Functional behavior assessment
  • Learning disabilities and school-based interventions
  • Resilience in children with neurodevelopmental disabilities
  • Developmental milestones
  • Health disparities
  • Transitioning to adult services
  • Outreach to culturally and linguistically diverse families
  • The neurobiology of poverty
  • Psychoactive medications with children
  • Raising children with disabilities
  • Telehealth technology

2016/17 Early Intervention Outreach and Training

Graphic illustrating 1400 professionals, families and self-advocates who received continuing education and professional development training in early intervention from ICI.

complete list of Early Intervention + ASD projects, centers, and lead staff