Critically-needed family support expanded with state funding for Delaware Network for Excellence in Autism
May 19, 2017—NEWARK DE Autism Delaware has recently expanded its programming options for Delaware families affected by autism spectrum disorder (ASD) thanks to state funding through the Delaware Network for Excellence in Autism (DNEA). Established by the Delaware legislature in 2016, the DNEA is a multi-agency collaborative network led by the University of Delaware’s Center for Disabilities Studies. The goal is to increase the available training surrounding ASD.
Autism Delaware’s expanded family support services are organized around the theme “Reach out before you burn out.” The program provides a year-long calendar of available parent training and accessibility through Facebook Live, plus a new collaboration with the First State’s education program, the Delaware Autism Program (DAP). Called Autism 101, it addresses a range of needs noticed over the years by DAP and Autism Delaware staff.
“Through this program,” explains Autism Delaware family support program manager Annalisa Ekbladh, “we can train families with children who are newly diagnosed with ASD. By training, we mean help in understanding what autism is, working with your child who has ASD, and finding resources in the community as well as other important components.”
A calendar of available parent training includes professional speakers with backgrounds specific to ASD issues. “The workshops take place in Autism Delaware’s Newark and Lewes offices,” notes Ekbladh, “and air simultaneously on Facebook Live so that busy parents and caregivers have easy accessibility to the information.
“Our workshops on Facebook Live have been incredibly successful so far,” adds Ekbladh. “Because Facebook Live is so much more interactive than webinars, families can ask questions and get answers in real time. The workshops only began in April, and the first one was viewed 943 times. And the second was viewed 1,300 times in the first two days!
“An unintended benefit of this format,” continues Ekbladh, “is the parent connections that have been created. In this format, parents readily share their experiences and support each other, all in real time.”
Also with the state funding through the DNEA, two new family navigators are being added to the Autism Delaware staff. Both navigators are bilingual, so their goal is to provide more outreach to Delaware’s Spanish-speaking community as well as greater access to families affected by ASD.
Finally, the establishment of the DNEA also served as the impetus for a collaborative effort with autism agencies, such as Autism Delaware, DAP, Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, La Red Health Center, the University of Delaware’s Center for Disabilities Studies, and Delaware Family Voices. The goal is to create a stronger community by addressing any overlap and gaps in supports and services. “We all see families in difficult contexts,” says Ekbladh. “By collaborating with each other, we can develop a conduit to help all families in need.”
About autism spectrum disorder and Autism Delaware
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that includes impairment in social interaction and social communication. Individuals with ASD also exhibit repetitive patterns of behavior or interest that limit everyday functioning. An intellectual or language impairment is also possible. All these symptoms will first appear in early childhood.
According to the fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), any individual with a well-established DSM-4 diagnosis should be given the diagnosis of “autism spectrum disorder” (or ASD, for short). In the DSM-4, the diagnoses included classic autism, Asperger’s syndrome, and pervasive developmental disorder–not otherwise specified (PDD–NOS). ASD is categorized by severity on a scale of one to three.
In the Delaware public school system, 152 students received an educational classification of autism in 1991, but for the 2016–17 school year, 1,899 students had this classification. This number omits the adults or children who are not currently being served by the school’s special-education system.
Autism Delaware is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit made up of individuals with ASD, their family members, the professionals who serve them, and friends of people with ASD. The agency’s mission is to help people and families affected by ASD. With offices in Newark, Dover, and Lewes, Autism Delaware serves the entire state.
Autism Delaware’s programs and services are supported by state contracts and generous donations from individuals and corporations across Delaware. Fundraising events, like the Blue Jean Ball and the Fall Auction Gala, help provide the income needed to make critical programs a reality. For more information on how to help, visit autismdelaware.org.