Autism Systems Overview

Medical Home: Autism Systems OverviewChildren and youth on the autism spectrum are less likely to have a medical home (23.9%) compared to other children with special health care needs (43%) or all children (57.5%). They have greater health care utilization than other children and are more likely to have unmet needs (63%). (source: NS-CSHCN 2009-10, Lin, Rev J Autism Disord 2014)

Many partners in Washington State are working together to:

  • change policy regarding supports and services
  • increase access to care
  • better understand the causes and treatment for children and youth diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

The AS3D Grant

The Washington State Department of Health’s (DOH) federal AS3D Grant (Autism Spectrum Disorders and Other Developmental Disabilities) has been instrumental in helping move autism systems work forward.  The grant was funded from Sept 2017-Aug 2019.  The goals of the AS3D grant included:

  • improving access to interventions for children, youth and families with ASD/DD,
  • empowering families to partner with health professionals in decision making,
  • and strengthening state level leadership and systems integration needed to assure timely identification and access to services.

DOH’s Children with Special Healthcare Needs Program oversaw the grant activities and contracted with key partners to implement the grant.  Grant funding  supported:

  • the expansion of family navigation (care coordination) for underserved populations,
  • the 2018 Washington State Autism Advisory Council meeting on Trauma-informed Care,
  • the expansion of communities participating in Community Asset Mapping and School Medical Autism Review Teams (SMART) to improve access to early diagnosis and other needed supports,
  • and assessment and planning for how to use telehealth to expand access to services for children with autism and other developmental disabilities in our state.

Grant Lead: WA State Dept of Health Title V Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs Program.  Contracted partners included:

Products of the grant include:

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA)


For more information contact, Project Director Michelle Hoffman

Washington State Autism Advisory Council (WAAC)

The Washington Autism Advisory Council (WAAC) is a statewide partnership of autism organizations, family members, autistic self-advocates, clinical leadership from Multi-disciplinary Diagnostic Centers, other clinicians, community coalition partners, educators, and state agencies working together to influence policy and improve services for individuals with autism and their families.  The council meets once a year to share news and updates about autism specific events, programs, and activities as well as to address current challenges faced in access to services and supports for those impacted by autism.  Examples of recent topics addressed include the needs of adolescents and adults with autism and updates on autism insurance coverage.

WAAC Meeting Nov 5, 2018
More information about the WAAC and archived meeting minutes

School Medical Autism Review Teams

The School Medical Autism Review Team (SMART) engages school and medical professionals in a team setting to review a child’s needs and to ensure appropriate services that can support their success in school and life. This is a unique inter-disciplinary model of care that allows children to receive an assessment for autism in their local community.  (Read more).

Community Asset Mapping  For Early Identification and Diagnosis of Children with ASD

The Washington Autism Advisory Council held a summit in 2009 to address the long wait times for autism diagnoses at the limited number of centers providing evaluations at the time.  A sizable minority of the children being referred for an autism evaluation did not even have autism but their families were waiting a year or more to receive any help.  WAAC members explored how the diagnostic centers and WAAC could better support communities to 1)  increase local awareness of general child development, 2) support developmental screening in practices and early learning settings, and 3) where feasible, provide diagnostic evaluations in the community.  We called this approach “Community Asset Mapping” (CAM), because the idea was to identify and build on the strengths of each community in order to address priority gaps.

Funded by federal autism grants held by the Washington Department of Health and the UW LEND Program, Medical Home Partnerships Project and DOH staff  worked with the WAAC and  several pilot communities who were part of the Medical Home Leadership Network to pilot this approach. Diagnostic center clinician leaders  in particular have provided generous, volunteer technical assistance ranging from in-person presentations, consultation and community dialogues with CAM communities over the past several years.  Participating communities have improved communication among physicians, families and other service providers and between the local communities and the diagnostic centers.  They have also increased local identification of children with autism and other disorders and developed new services, including,  in some communities, the ability to evaluate and diagnose children locally.  More about CAM.

Additional Resources

  • My Child’s Map to Services (PDF) in English or Mapa de los Servicios Para Mi Hijo Spanish/Espanol (PDF).
    This guide, developed by the Washington State Department of Health Children with Special Health Care Needs Program, offers information to parents about initial steps to take after their children receives a diagnosis of autism or other developmental disabilities. It offers answers to frequently asked questions to clarify the process of attaining services and supports. Additionally, it provides templates to help parents keep track of their child’s health and medical information.
  • Department of Health Autism Pages with additional resources and background information
  • Washington Autism Alliance and Advocacy’s  Provider/ Resource Directory