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October 2021


The Autism Foundation of Oklahoma Receives Grant to Educate Childcare Workers

By Press Release

The Autism Foundation of Oklahoma (AFO) recently received a $25,000 grant from Inasmuch Foundation to pilot a training program for childcare providers to support children with autism. Through collaborative partnership with Sunbeam Family Services, AFO will create an introductory training for childcare providers to better understand autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and connect families to local resources.

The role of a childcare provider is an important one for many families. However, 39% of parents of children with ASD report that childcare impacted their employment decisions. This is 7 times higher than that of families without children with ASD. In a recent Oklahoma needs assessment, it was found that 41% of parents of children with ASD depend on relatives for childcare and 25% of families reported that one parent had to cease employment in order to care for children.

“Awareness and identification are a key piece of improving access to early intervention services for children at risk for autism spectrum disorder. The signs of autism typically appear in early development and childcare providers can often be the first person in a child’s life to recognize key indicators”, said AFO Executive Director Emily Scott.

“We value the importance of community partnerships and this work with the Autism Foundation is an example of coming together to serve families of central Oklahoma,” said Sunbeam Chief Program Officer Paula Gates.

“Oklahoma children and families will significantly benefit from the Autism Foundation and Sunbeam Family Services’ collaborative training endeavor,” said Inasmuch Foundation Vice President of Programs Sarah Roberts. “Since early intervention can change a child’s developmental path and improve lifelong outcomes, this type of training is imperative for childcare providers in our state.”

The Autism Foundation of Oklahoma is a statewide organization with a mission to improve the lives of Oklahomans with autism and their families. AFO’s programs areas address the lifespan, from early childhood development to workforce development and public safety initiatives. For additional information, visit

Autism in Indian Country

By Healthcare

AFO Board member and DEI Officer Dr. Crystal Hernandez was recently asked to submit a public comment for the upcoming Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) in regard to Autism in Indian Country. It is imperative to have services and supports that are culturally relevant for our various Tribal Nations throughout the United States, including the many Tribes in Oklahoma. With this public comment, there are hopes of true inclusion in decisions, funding, conversations, and action.

My name is Dr. Crystal Hernandez, I am an autism mother and ally, Cherokee and Latina. I serve as a Tribal mentor parent, serving on support groups and panels, working with local and national organizations on Tribal inclusion projects and research. I see and hear the stories of grandparents and parents, communities, and individuals struggling to find suitable service and varied treatment for their Autistic loved ones. I see continued disparities in access to quality care within communities, underrepresentation, and cultural exclusion. We must do better.
It is a pivotal moment in our world, where Tribal Nations are not just being looked at, but rather are starting to be seen and included. But there is still much work to be done. Autism in Indian Country is overwhelmingly underrepresented in national and state data, due to non-inclusive methods of measurement and often distrust of the measuring systems.
We must focus on improving culturally relevant diagnostic tools and screening instruments and train in meaningful ways, those working within the field on cultural humility and responsiveness. There needs to be a focus on embedding appropriate culturally relevant screening practices in a variety of conventional and unconventional settings, such as health clinics, daycares, community centers, nutrition programs, head starts, and behavioral health care settings. A focus on community and extended family compositions in system build and design is desperately needed. We must change the narrative within communities and learn from those walking the journey. Representation matters in all the places where decisions are made, not just in theory, but in continued practice.
There is a great need to improve access to care in community settings, meeting the person where they are, removing barriers to treatment and support. We must look beyond gap analysis and instead focus on actionable items for a continued system overhaul. We need to allow culturally-rooted care to be viewed with the same fidelity and reimbursements that other mainstream treatments are. Giving honor to language, customs, beliefs, values, and practices is the only way forward.
The vast array of Tribal Nations throughout the United States is not here to be served, but rather is here to be part of building meaningful systems of service.
Thank you,
Crystal Hernandez, Psy.D., MBA

Learn more about the IACC at:

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