Female clinician communicating with a boy using an augmentative and alternative communication device.

A University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) Priority Area is a programmatic area of focus that is related to the mission of the UCEDD (to support inclusion of individuals with developmental disabilities in all aspects of community life) and encompasses a range of activity across the UCEDD core functions of research, training and…

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Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects social interaction, communication, and behavior, and occurs in approximately one out of every 59 children. The Waisman Center is strongly committed to solving the autism puzzle and providing high-quality services to children and adults with autism and their families. The Waisman Center is uniquely positioned to make major advances in the understanding of autism because of its multidisciplinary approach and ability to conduct research, training, service, and outreach programs under one roof. The scope of the Waisman Center’s autism-related activities continues to expand as we actively pursue the development of more research into the causes, consequences and treatments of this complex disorder.

Our Programs

Act Early Ambassador
This project, which is sponsored by the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, is designed to develop a network of state-level experts to improve early identification of autism and other developmental disabilities. Act Early Ambassadors serve as state liaisons to the national Act Early Initiative and act as a community champion or change agent to increase awareness activities and improvement of early identification practices.

Autism Treatment Programs (ATP)

The Waisman Center Autism Treatment Programs (ATP), in partnership with UW Health, offer focused behavioral treatment to individuals with autism and their families. Parent Coaching is the key service.  Parents learn and practice strategies to reduce challenging behavior, teach alternatives skills and enhance family relationships.  Individual treatment is offered supplementary to Parent Coaching.  Individual treatment provides additional practice on select skills that are then carried over to family interactions and activities. The treatment approach is founded on the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), and additional evidence-based strategies. Starting Together, for children ages 2-4 years, offers Parent Coaching and individual treatment during every day play activities and daily routines, guided by The Early Start Denver Model (ESDM). In Growing Together (ages 5-26) parents join their child, teen or young adult to work toward goals identified by the parent. Limited individual treatment is provided for practice on select skills.  Teens and young adults (ages 13–26) and their parents participate in group psychoeducation in Transitioning Together. During group participants learn strategies for a successful transition to adult life, while parents meet to network, problem solve, and learn about resources and supports.

Autism and Developmental Disabilities Clinic
The Autism and Developmental Disabilities Clinic is an interdisciplinary clinic that provides diagnosis and clinical care for children with a developmental disability including: autism spectrum disorders (ASD), intellectual disability, fragile X, and genetic disorders associated with developmental delay.

Evaluation of Developmental Monitoring using LTSAE in Early Head Start Settings
This study addresses the need to evaluate the feasibility and effectiveness of developmental monitoring using the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” (LTSAE) resources in Early Head Start settings. The goals of the study are to determine the feasibility of integrating LTSAE into Early Head Start operations, and to determine the impact of developmental monitoring using LTSAE on provider and parent knowledge and practice related to early identification of developmental delay

Wisconsin Care Integration Initiative
The Wisconsin Care Integration Initiative (WiCII) project aims to increase family-centered, integrated systems of care for children with autism spectrum disorders and other developmental disabilities.

Wisconsin Study to Explore Early Development in Autism (SEED)
The overall goals of the SEED are to: characterize phenotypic variability and identify relatively homogenous subgroups of children with ASD; and investigate risk factors for ASD by comparing the early exposures and development of well-characterized ASD cases and controls selected to represent diverse population subgroups.

Wisconsin Surveillance of Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities (WISADDS)
WISADDS is an investigation to monitor the number of 8-year-old children in the population with an ASD, or cerebral palsy (CP), or both. This surveillance system will help establish an accurate count of the number of children and families residing in Wisconsin affected by these disorders.


Completed Projects

  • Act Early State Systems Grant
    The goal of the Wisconsin Act Early State Systems grant is to develop and implement a sustainable training and technical assistance model for public health departments to use national resources from “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” and “Birth to Five. Watch me Thrive.” to support developmental monitoring in public health programs.
  • National Medical Home Autism Initiative
    Founded as a cooperative agreement by the federal Maternal Child Health Bureau and was a national technical assistance, resource and advocacy project designed to promote methods that improved the capacity of the medical home and early intervention community to identify, appropriately serve and integrate children with autism into their communities.
  • National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders
    The Waisman Center participated in a multi-university center that included collaborators at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and the University of California, Davis. Funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, this project promoted the use of evidence-based practices for intervention and education for infants, children, and youth with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and their families. Services provided included family support services and professional development activities for 12 states over a period of five years to focus on state-of-the-science early screening, identification and diagnosis of ASD.
  • WI-IN Partnership to Evaluate Use of LTSAE in Childcare Settings
    The Wisconsin-Indiana (WI-IN) Partnership addresses the need to evaluate the use of the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC’s) “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” (LTSAE) resources to support developmental monitoring in childcare systems. The WI-IN Partnership will solicit input from cross-sector stakeholders, and conduct and evaluate LTSAE integration in state professional development infrastructure, a learning cohort with Head Start/Early Head Start sites to develop a train-the-trainer model; and use in daily childcare operations in a diverse set of public and private childcare sites.