WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Black Church Initiative (NBCI), a faith-based coalition of 34,000 churches comprised of 15 denominations and 15.7 million African-Americans churchgoers, and Autism Speaks, the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization, has announced a new collaboration seeking to reduce the average age of diagnosis and to increase access to high-quality early intervention for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in the African-American community.
The collaboration will be piloted in 150 churches in the greater Atlanta area as part of the Autism Speaks Early Access to Care initiative Outreach in these congregations, seeking to increase awareness of the signs of autism and inform congregants, their extended families and community of available resources and services.
“Studies clearly demonstrate that signs of autism can emerge as early as six to 12 months and that there are effective tools to screen children for autism risk as early as one year and to provide a reliable diagnosis as early as 24 months,” said Autism Speaks Assistant Director of Public Health Research Amy Daniels, Ph.D.
“Yet children in the African-American community are typically diagnosed even much later than the four to five years of age which is the average age of autism diagnosis in the United States according to the (Centers for Disease Control).”
Officials say that while early detection is critical to initiate early intervention therapies for optimal outcomes, many parents have very little knowledge about autism and its symptoms.
When children with ASD are treated with appropriate early intervention services between the ages of three and five years, approximately 20 to 50 percent of those children may be able to be mainstreamed.
The National Black Church Initiative is a coalition of 34,000 churches working to eradicate racial disparities in health care, technology, education, housing and the environment by providing wellness information and faith-based, cutting-edge solutions to economic and social issues to its member churches and the public.
Through the collaboration, Autism Speaks will provide written and other collateral materials which can be used by these churches to help their congregations understand developmental milestones and the possible signs of autism.