What do we know about Autism Spectrum Disorders?

  • Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are a group of developmental disabilities defined by significant delays in social interaction and communication.
  • Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that appears during the first three years of life. Studies show that ASD can be diagnosed as early as 18 months.
  • The current autism prevalence rate in children is about 1 in 110. 1
  • The diagnosis of autism has increased more than tenfold in the last decade.

What is Central Missouri’s response?

The Central Missouri Autism Rapid Response Initiative is a collaborative, community-based group of parents and agency providers in the mid-Missouri area who aim to:

  • Increase the number of children who are routinely screened for Autism Spectrum Disorders,
  • Improve access to timely and accurate diagnosis for individuals at risk for ASD,
  • Improve access to timely and effective interventions for individuals with ASD, and
  • Provide family members with education and supports.

Begun in 2006, the Initiative is sponsored by the Missouri Division of Developmental Disabilities Office of Autism Services. 2

Accomplishments of the Central Missouri Rapid Response Initiative

  • Established a community network that supports comprehensive and coordinated care
  • Developed two online resource brochures for families and providers
  • Developed two training modules: Understanding Autism and ASD Screening and Referral
  • Contributed to the development of the Office of Autism Services’ “Navigating Autism Services: A Community Guide for Missouri” for families and providers
  • Partnered with the Missouri Medical Association to develop a resolution to encourage all physicians to include autism screenings in well-child visits no later than 18 months of age
  • Worked with the First Steps program to expand eligibility for early intervention services to all children with an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis.
  • Served as an advisory group for the development and implementation of a federal grant entitled Rapid Response Project: Implementing Missouri’s ASD Roadmap that expands this project to other areas of Missouri.

Impact of the Central Missouri Rapid Response Initiative

  • Increase in trainee knowledge about autism and screening and referral practices 3
  • Increase in the number of children evaluated for ASD 4
  • Improved provision of education and supports to family members5
  • Positive impact on communication and collaboration among community professionals 5

Next steps for the Central Missouri Rapid Response Initiative

  • Develop trainings on autism interventions and youth transition
  • Enhance the focus on transition resources for youth with ASD and their families
  • Contribute to the development of Rapid Response collaboratives in other areas of the state

Central Missouri Rapid Response Initiative Representation

  • Parents
  • Autism Speaks
  • Boone County Family Resources
  • Central Missouri Community Action – Head Start
  • Central Missouri Regional Office
  • Child Care Aware of Missouri
  • Columbia Public Schools
  • Columbia Public Schools – Early Childhood Special Education
  • Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
  • Department of Health and Senior Services Healthy Families & Youth
  • Department of Mental Health Division of Developmental Disabilities Office of Autism Services
  • First Steps
  • Heart of Missouri United Way
  • Judevine Center for Autism
  • Missouri School Board Association
  • MU Center for Family Policy & Research
  • MU Human Environmental Sciences – Extension
  • MU Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders
  • Parents as Teachers – Columbia
  • Parents as Teachers – National Center
  • ParentLink
  • Project ACCESS
  • Project Reach
  • St. Louis Public Schools
  • St. Louis University
  • TouchPoint Autism Services
  • University of Missouri-Columbia
  • University of Missouri-Columbia Sinclair School of Nursing


1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Retrieved on 12/2/10 from http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/features/counting-autism.html.
2 See Missouri’s Autism Research and Response Agenda, July 2003, www.dmh.mo.gov/mrdd/progs/autism/mara.pdf
3 Missouri Rapid Response module pre-and post-test results from the Report on the Missouri Autism Rapid Response Initiative. July 2009 – June 2010.
4 Governor’s Recommendation to Reduce the Autism Diagnostic Wait List FY10 End of Year Report. July 2009 – June 2010.
5 Central Missouri Rapid Response member survey, July 2010