In 2001, parents, behavioral health experts, psychiatrists, psychologists and public health officials began to express concerns regarding the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) among children. Over the next few years, they presented their concerns and recommendations to various legislators and others in state government. In 2003 the Illinois General Assembly responded by passing Public Act 93-0395 establishing The Autism Program of Illinois (TAP). At that time, the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that 1 in 500 children might have ASD. Because of its expertise in the field, The Hope Institute for Children and Families was designated as the convening partner. TAP regional training centers were established at Hope in Springfield, as well as at the University of Chicago and Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. The goal was to increase community awareness of ASD and to increase family access to early diagnosis and appropriate intervention by providing training to educators, Early Intervention professionals and medical providers. In addition, TAP facilitated several research projects to evaluate different treatment interventions for effectiveness.
It became clear that the impact of autism was greater than previously realized, and in 2007 the Illinois Legislature expanded TAP from a training and research program to a statewide network that also provided direct services to children with ASD and their families. The timing of the Legislature’s action in 2007 was fortuitous. In 2008, the CDC revised their estimate of the prevalence of autism, and reported that 1 in 150 children were likely to have ASD. The latest findings of the CDC, published in 2012, now indicate that as many as 1 in 88 children could have ASD, affecting more children than cancer and diabetes combined. The Autism Program of Illinois Service Network today consists of 17 partners and 19 locations throughout the state, including 4 public universities and 8 community agencies. You can find the TAP Center closest to you here.
The Autism Program of Illinois Service Network serves and supports persons with Autism Spectrum Disorder and their families through a coordinated network of providers, parents, and university programs while developing, utilizing, and sharing best and promising practices.
As the largest, comprehensive statewide program in the country dedicated to improving the lives of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and their families, TAP provides a variety of resources and services. As a collaboration of local agencies, TAP is able to offer services that respond to the unique needs of different communities across Illinois.
Family and Community Resource Rooms (FCRRs): All TAP Service Network Partners have a variety of resources available to families, caregivers, teachers, and interested community members on autism spectrum disorder (ASD), as well as other developmental concerns. Resources range from informational brochures, books, videos, tip sheets, and visual aids in addition to developmentally appropriate and interactive games and toys. Trained staff is available to assist you in finding the resources that will be most helpful to you, and can provide assistance in developing visuals tools designed to meet your needs.
Screening and Diagnosis: Utilizing ASD-specific and general developmental measures, as well as information collected from parents and teachers, your child will be screened for the possibility of ASD or other developmental delay. When a screening indicates the need for further evaluation, a comprehensive diagnostic evaluation is warranted. Overseen by a clinical psychologist or physician with specialized experience in developmental disabilities and ASD, the specifics of the evaluation will be based on the needs of your child.
Social Skills Groups: Children with ASD often face challenges in everyday interactions with others. Social skills groups help children learn the social rules we typically take for granted, and develop a greater level of comfort in communicating with others. Groups vary in length, and are typically age- and gender-specific.
Family Services: Even though only one child in a family may be diagnosed with ASD, the entire family is affected. Trained professionals can provide family treatment, consultation, and specialized resources and supports to address your concerns.
Support Groups: Parents and siblings can often benefit from the reassurance of knowing that others are facing many of the same challenges; hearing of others’ approaches and successes often provides new ideas to consider. Many TAP Service Network Partners host Parent Support Groups and Sibling Support Groups throughout the year, and are aware of different support groups operating in service area. In addition, most Partners offer an educational workshop for parents whose children have been newly diagnosed with an ASD. A list of support groups in your region can be found here, and a calendar of events which includes support group meetings is located here.
Specialized Consultation: Sometimes you have a specific issue or concern and want professional advice – this is when you can benefit from the opportunity to consult with an experienced professional. TAP partners can provide advice, recommendations, and referrals to specialists and other agencies as appropriate. This service is available to parents and caregivers, educators, health care, child care and other providers. Many TAP Partners also provide consultation services in local schools in addition to those services provided in the TAP centers.
Training Programs: TAP offers a number of training programs through our Partners and the Central Office. Programs are available for parents and caregivers, educators, EI professionals, First Responders, day care providers, and others who work with individuals with ASD. In addition, TAP provides Autism Awareness workshops and events throughout the year (and especially during Autism Awareness Month in April) for community groups and the general public. In many cases, trainings and workshops can be customized for the audience or to fit within a specific timeframe. Programs that are open to the public can be found on our event calendar. To request a training or awareness workshop, please contact your local TAP partner or complete this request form.
Telehealth Presentations: TAP sponsors an ongoing series of short lectures and workshops on ASD-related issues for Service Network Partners and community professionals. Presenters are experts in their fields, with topics ranging from Differential Diagnosis, Genetic Testing, Clinic/School Teamwork, and others. Contact your local TAP Service Network Partner to discuss the availability of these programs in your community.
You can read our most recent Annual Report here.
Services available vary by Partner, and are based on community needs. Click here to locate the TAP Center serving your region, and contact that center directly for a listing of services they provide.