Tennessee Autism Summit Team

In late 2008, the National Center for Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD), which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) at Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), with help from the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) organized regional “autism summits” across the country. The aim was to spur states to develop statewide plans to improve the identification, assessment, service coordination, and provision of services for children with autism and other developmental disabilities.

Our UCEDD and LEND and the Boling Center UCEDD and LEND were instrumental in organizing the Tennessee Autism Summit Team. Our Regional meeting was held in January 2009 and included teams of key stakeholders from Tennessee, Kentucky, and North and South Carolina.

Since then, with continued support from our LEND and UCEDD and the University of Tennessee Boling Center UCEDD and LEND, the TN Team has met quarterly. Team members have focused on the following:

Training - of community pediatricians (STAT-MD with TN Chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics), educators (through TN Dept of Education & TRIAD), and families (through VKC TRIAD, Boling Center, and the Autism Society’s chapters in Middle, East, & West TN).

Statewide dissemination of Learn the Signs-Act Early materials for parents, early childhood educators, and health care providers--developed and field-tested by CDC and free, These efforts have been assisted by Act Early Ambassadors - one in each state. Dr. Toni Whitaker at the Boling Center is Tennessee’s Act Early Ambassador.

The Boling Center obtained a mini-grant that enabled Autism Tennessee to train parents in the East & West TN chapters to offer the Orientation program that Autism Tennessee developed.

State Plan

In 2011, HRSA offered 2-year state planning grants. On behalf of the Team, the TN Disability Coalition applied for and received the grant "State Planning for Improving Services for Children & Youth with ASD & Other DD.” The first major activity was a statewide needs assessment, which Dr. Bob Hodapp, VKC UCEDD Director of Research, led, with the help of VKC UCEDD trainees. The second major activity was a Community Conversation strategy to get grassroots input; six were held around the state and a booklet summarized findings. Three workgroups—Early Years, School-Age, and Adolescence/Transition to Adulthood-- met over several months to develop recommendations. Based on these activities, the Coalition led production of the Tennessee Autism Plan 2014: Stakeholder recommendations for a comprehensive coordinated system of care for children and youth with autism.

In 2015, the State of Tennessee convened an Autism Task Force, consisting of legislators and individuals from State agencies, advocacy groups, and health care organizations. The Autism Legislative Task Force met in December 2015. Carol Westlake, John Shouse, and Dr. Beth Malow (representatives serving on the Task Force who are members of the Tennessee Autism Summit Team, presented highlights of the Tennessee Autism Plan. The Task Force adopted the Tennessee Autism Plan.

In 2016, a bill was introduced in the Tennessee Legislature to create a Tennessee Council on Autism Spectrum Disorder. This Council would provide a home for comprehensive ASD services in Tennessee, formalizing a mechanism within State government for State agencies and community partners to work collaboratively. The bill will be reintroduced in the 2017 session. The Tennessee Autism Summit Team meets quarterly. Contact ucedd@vumc.org.

Learn the Signs. Act Early

Track developmental milestones your child should be reaching, for children from 3 months to 5 years

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