October 16, 2009

VU to offer online training for early autism screening

Featured Image

Liam Helgeson, 22 months, takes part in a STAT screening with research assistant Abby Brown. (photo by Susan Urmy)

VU to offer online training for early autism screening

Autism screening is being taught online to community professionals through a new tool developed at Vanderbilt known as the STAT (Screening Tool for Autism in Toddlers and Young Children).

Psychologists, pediatricians, speech-language pathologists, preschool teachers and early intervention specialists who work with young children can be independently certified to identify autism in toddlers and young children by completing the Web-based training tutorial.

While early diagnosis and intervention are thought to be crucial for these children, it is not uncommon for parents to have to wait months to receive an appropriate diagnosis.

“In some cases parents have to wait a year or more from the time of initial concerns until receiving an appropriate diagnosis,” said Wendy Stone, Ph.D., professor of Pediatrics and director of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center's Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders (TRIAD).

“That is unacceptable, especially because studies have shown early intervention services are crucial for optimizing developmental outcomes in children with autism spectrum disorders.”

Stone developed the STAT with Opal Ousley, Ph.D., assistant professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University School of Medicine, to screen for autism in children between 24 and 36 months of age. It consists of 12 activities that assess the areas of play, communication, and imitation, and takes about 20 minutes to administer.

STAT has been used nationally and internationally in clinical and research programs attempting to identify the earliest signs of autism and has also been incorporated into pediatrician trainings in Tennessee.

Successful completion of the Tutorial Post-Test earns certification for independent use of STAT as well as continuing education credits for psychologists and physicians.

For more information visit http://TRIAD.vanderbilt.edu/STAT, call 322-6533, or e-mail STAT@vanderbilt.edu.