CoBALT Website Connects Families, Providers with Trusted Autism Resources

By Amy Widner

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
  • Screening guidelines
  • Resources providers can give to families

UAMS is the state's only health sciences university, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; hospital; a main campus in Little Rock; a Northwest Arkansas regional campus in Fayetteville; a statewide network of regional campuses; and seven institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, Psychiatric Research Institute, Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging, Translational Research Institute and Institute for Digital Health & Innovation. UAMS includes UAMS Health, a statewide health system that encompasses all of UAMS' clinical enterprise including its hospital, regional clinics and clinics it operates or staffs in cooperation with other providers. UAMS is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. U.S. News & World Report named UAMS Medical Center the state's Best Hospital; ranked its ear, nose and throat program among the top 50 nationwide; and named six areas as high performing — cancer, colon cancer surgery, heart failure, hip replacement, knee replacement and lung cancer surgery. UAMS has 2,727 students, 870 medical residents and five dental residents. It is the state's largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including 1,200 physicians who provide care to patients at UAMS, its regional campuses, Arkansas Childrens Hospital, the VA Medical Center and Baptist Health. Visit www.uams.edu or www.uamshealth.com. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Instagram.

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