Abstract Title

Autism Spectrum Disorder in Rural Georgia: Resources and Education

Abstract

Background: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is neurodevelopmental disorder that is increasingly common with 1:44 children currently meeting the criteria for diagnosis. Though ASD can be reliably diagnosed in children at as early as 18 months of age, the average age of diagnosis nationally is 4.5 years. Delayed diagnosis is associated with missed therapeutic opportunities, financial resources, and social support. Children in rural communities tend to be diagnosed later than their sub/urban counterparts and face unique barriers to receiving care. Some barriers may be attributed to a lack of healthcare access (lack of local specialists, limited treatment options, etc . . .) but others are informational. Rural caregivers may be less knowledgeable about ASD signs and therefore less able to articulate concerns about their children, and rural physicians have been shown to do ASD screens less frequently, be perceived as less knowledgeable about ASD signs by caregivers, and provide behavioral testing referrals less frequently.

Program: In order to address informational barriers to ASD diagnoses and care, we received a G08 grant from the National Library of Medicine to develop informational resources aimed at increasing ASD awareness in rural caregivers, and improving rural physicians’ understanding of ASD signs and treatment options. The central pillars of our efforts will be a website for promoting rural ASD awareness (the Autism ToolKit) and an online physician education course. The Autism ToolKit will work with rural caregivers to generate information on issues specific to ASD in rural communities and act as a resource for those seeking treatment. The online course will use the Mercer University School of Medicine’s preceptor network to ensure rural physicians have a current understanding of ASD signs, and help them identify workable testing and treatment options for their patients.

Keywords

Autism Spectrum Disorder, rural, awareness, caregivers

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Autism Spectrum Disorder in Rural Georgia: Resources and Education

Background: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is neurodevelopmental disorder that is increasingly common with 1:44 children currently meeting the criteria for diagnosis. Though ASD can be reliably diagnosed in children at as early as 18 months of age, the average age of diagnosis nationally is 4.5 years. Delayed diagnosis is associated with missed therapeutic opportunities, financial resources, and social support. Children in rural communities tend to be diagnosed later than their sub/urban counterparts and face unique barriers to receiving care. Some barriers may be attributed to a lack of healthcare access (lack of local specialists, limited treatment options, etc . . .) but others are informational. Rural caregivers may be less knowledgeable about ASD signs and therefore less able to articulate concerns about their children, and rural physicians have been shown to do ASD screens less frequently, be perceived as less knowledgeable about ASD signs by caregivers, and provide behavioral testing referrals less frequently.

Program: In order to address informational barriers to ASD diagnoses and care, we received a G08 grant from the National Library of Medicine to develop informational resources aimed at increasing ASD awareness in rural caregivers, and improving rural physicians’ understanding of ASD signs and treatment options. The central pillars of our efforts will be a website for promoting rural ASD awareness (the Autism ToolKit) and an online physician education course. The Autism ToolKit will work with rural caregivers to generate information on issues specific to ASD in rural communities and act as a resource for those seeking treatment. The online course will use the Mercer University School of Medicine’s preceptor network to ensure rural physicians have a current understanding of ASD signs, and help them identify workable testing and treatment options for their patients.