IACC workshop addresses strategies for streamlining services and supports
This guest post is by Carrie Masur Gillispie. She is a Government Relations intern at Autism Speaks with a Master of Education in school psychology.
The Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) Services Subcommittee held a workshop on November 8th called “Building a Seamless System of Quality Services & Supports Across the Lifespan,” in Rockville, Maryland (view the agenda here). The all-day event focused on policy issues related to the system of services and supports for people with autism spectrum disorders and their families. The workshop was open to the public, and several community members attended the event including parents, educators, medical professionals, and researchers.
Nancy Thaler of the National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Services, Bill East of the National Association of State Directors of Special Education, and K. Charlie Lakin of the University of Minnesota painted a picture of the current state of autism services. They noted that while services have come a long way over the past few years, families still need help with accessing service providers and support agencies who can meet their unique needs. They also noted concerns about the increasing demand for autism services due to increased prevalence and the fiscal challenges many states are facing in funding these services.
Self-direction care programs give people with autism more power over deciding how to use public funds to fit their individual needs. Several states have secured federal waivers that give individuals with autism a budget, and the authority to choose how to spend that money among a selection of services and supports. They can tailor a combination of providers to best support their needs. These programs are sometimes referred to as “Cash and Counsel.” Michael Head of the Michigan Department of Community Health and James Conroy of the Center for Outcome Analysis discussed how to implement and evaluate these programs.
There are many different types of services and supports out there, and there is no one-size-fits-all combination to suit the unique needs of each person with autism. Donald Clintsman from the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services emphasized that it is important to cater those services according to each person’s needs. He presented a standardized way to assess each person’s needs in order to deliver the most appropriate services possible.
The training of professionals who work with people with autism was a key topic for three speakers. Kevin Ann Huckshorn from Delaware Health and Social Services presented training strategies to prevent and reduce the use of seclusion and restraint. Her model emphasized preventing conflict escalation and encouraging positive support. Carrie Blakeway of The Lewin Group and Erika Robbins from the Office of Ohio Health Plans highlighted issues surrounding hiring, educating, and supporting those who work with people with autism.
Sheldon Wheeler from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services presented examples of innovative strategies to give adults with autism better housing options such as individualized housing, homeownership, positive social environments, and housing modifications. Lisa Crabtree of Towson University and Julie LaBerge of the Bonduel School District in Wisconsin described peer support programs creating positive relationships and raising autism awareness in their schools. Jim Sinclair, co-founder and coordinator of the Autism Network International, described the advantages of people with autism providing peer support for others with autism.
Highlighting the need for streamlining the many service agencies within each state, John Martin from the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities discussed strategies for integrating government systems that provide autism-related services.
The subcommittee, as well as members of the IACC, had the opportunity to ask speakers questions about the most effective ways to build a more efficient system of services and supports. It was an information-packed day that fostered interesting discussions and several recommendations for achieving this important goal. Links to the speakers’ presentations are expected to be posted on the IACC website next week.