A new website developed by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) connects families and health care professionals with information and resources about autism and other developmental disorders.
The endeavor is a result of the Community-based Autism Liaison and Treatment Project (CoBALT). The new site - www.CoBALTAR.org - aims to be a one-stop shop for families and providers.
"If you are a parent who suspects your child might have autism or another developmental disorder, it can be overwhelming to try to find reliable, evidence-based information online. We want to eliminate the guesswork and connect families with trustworthy resources," said Jayne Bellando, Ph.D., CoBALT co-director and associate professor of pediatric psychology in the UAMS College of Medicine's Department of Pediatrics.
CoBALT is a project of the James L. Dennis Developmental Center, a part of the Department of Pediatrics that conducts diagnostic evaluations on children. CoBALT is funded by the Arkansas Department of Human Services' Division of Developmental Disabilities Services' Title V Children with Special Health Care Needs Program.
While in search of a diagnosis, families often face long wait times and travel distances. In search of a way to better serve families, Department of Pediatrics faculty partnered with the Title V program about eight years ago to form CoBALT.
Education is CoBALT's primary mission. It aims to train teams of health care providers across the state with the knowledge and the confidence to screen children for developmental disorders, reducing wait times and travel distances for families - all with the goal of improving outcomes for patients.
Today, there are CoBALT teams in Lowell, Fort Smith, Clinton, Forrest City, El Dorado and Little Rock.
"The ultimate goal of empowering families with information and training more health care professionals to screen for developmental disorders is to help families get quicker access to specialized developmental screening, which may result in quicker services," Bellando said. "Quicker services often lead to better outcomes, because when you're dealing with children and developmental disorders - each passing week can mean another missed milestone. It's important to start services quickly."
The newly launched CoBALT website is the latest step in this ongoing effort.
"For families and providers alike - it's OK to have questions. We intentionally worked to make the website as clear and accessible as possible," said Eldon G. Schulz, M.D., CoBALT co-director and professor in the Department of Pediatrics. "There are videos, frequently asked questions and links to reputable outside sources, in addition to the text we've provided."
At www.CoBALTAR.org, families will find:
Where to begin if a developmental disorder is suspected
Plans of action
How to find reputable information about autism and developmental disorders online
What to expect during an autism evaluation
An explanation of common treatments, therapies and support for children with autism and other developmental disorders
Next steps after an autism diagnosis
Providers will find:
How to participate in CoBALT trainings
Autism diagnosis criteria and treatment protocols
Information on typical development milestones
Resources providers can give to families