During Autism Acceptance Month, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) is announcing the launch of the Pennsylvania Autism Surveillance Project (PASP). This cross-agency collaboration among DHS and the Pennsylvania departments of Education (PDE) and Health (DOH) will study the prevalence and age of identification in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other developmental disabilities in the Commonwealth.
“Pennsylvania has been a national leader in seeking to understand and actively respond to the needs of Pennsylvanians with autism spectrum disorder, and we are proud to continue this important work by launching the Pennsylvania Autism Surveillance Project,” said Acting DHS Secretary Dr. Val Arkoosh. “PASP will allow us to build upon efforts to improve access to early screening, diagnosis, and treatment for individuals with ASD. This ensures they receive the resources they need to live the everyday life they deserve and plan for their needs throughout their lives.”
“By recognizing the prevalence of autism, educational systems will have the capacity to expand support systems of early intervention, based on collected data; thus, ensuring there are ample and equitable supports in every school,” said Acting Secretary of Education Dr. Khalid N. Mumin. “The Autism Surveillance Project will help identify needs, challenges, and barriers to learning, and will enable schools across the Commonwealth to better serve their students and communities.”
“As a pediatrician, I saw first-hand how families benefit from an early autism or developmental disability diagnosis. It allows them to seek services and treatment to help their child achieve their fullest life and development,” said Acting Secretary of Health Dr. Debra Bogen. “The Department of Health is a committed and engaged partner in the Autism Surveillance Project that will identify the prevalence of autism and developmental disabilities. This is a key step in understanding the resources necessary to support the needs of people impacted for years to come.”
PASP will be part of the national Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network, a program funded by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to collect data to better understand the prevalence and characteristics of children with ASD and other developmental disabilities living in different areas of the United States.
This public health surveillance initiative of ASD and developmental delays will be based on combinations of medical and education records. PASP will examine whether ASD is more common in some groups of children by gender and if those differences are changing over time. It will also seek to broaden the Commonwealth’s understanding of potential racial and ethnic inequities in accessing early screening, assessment, and diagnosis as well as treatment that is critical information for health systems and policymakers.
PASP will be run by DHS’ Office of Developmental Programs (ODP) in collaboration with PDE, DOH, and the Autism Services Education Resources and Training Collaborative (ASERT) as well as health system partners and school districts in Berks, Chester, and Delaware counties. The data PASP collects will be used to improve access to early ASD diagnosis and treatment, support DHS’ understanding of training and capacity building needs for those with ASD so Pennsylvania can leverage opportunities for local, regional, and national collaboration in the development of supports and services that effectively respond to the needs of individuals with ASD.