Autism Support: Autism Toolkit Unveils New Resources Tailored for Rural Communities

Staff Report From Georgia CEO

Friday, June 7th, 2024

 Autism Toolkit launches in Georgia. Unlike any other hub offering access to Autism resources, the website includes a virtual map, tools, and referrals for those impacted by Autism in the rural communities of Georgia.

Changing the game for those impacted by Autism in Georgia, Autism Toolkit was created by Sarah Rotschafer, Ph.D, esteemed faculty members at Mercer University School of Medicine. After receiving initial funding through G08 grants from the National Institutes of Health: National Library of Medicine, the new website launched in 2024 - with more robust options to serve a much needed autism-services-drought in Georgia.

Autism Toolkit exists to provide a vital resource for those in the neurodivergent community within the outlying, rural areas of Georgia, to bring much-needed attention and help to a lack of help in underserved communities that so desperately need access to Autism education and medical referrals.

Said Rotschafer, “When performing our autism and population health research, we kept hearing the same thing from rural Georgians: they wished there was an easy way for people without access to big-city resources to learn how to navigate autism.”

With the launch of the new site, families will see relief in the form of education and tools as well as long-awaited access to resources in rural Georgia. Even as some of these resources have been available, there was no site helping to guide a caregiver living in rural communities. Knowing where to start or who to go to for help when you are outside of a big city can be a complex minefield especially for a new parent with an Autistic child.

Rotschafer told WSAV3 News reporter, Hollie Lewis in 2022, when first endeavoring to create this invaluable resource for parents, “We’re going to provide information about autism. So if, for instance, you’re a parent in a rural area, who has a kid that you’re a little concerned about, maybe they’re doing an unusual behavior or maybe not quite caught up to the other kids, you could go on our tool-kit and see if that’s in line with the signs of autism.”

The organization hopes to be an information hub as well as safe and trusted place for parents and caregivers to get the answers they need. As of the launch of this press release, the website includes a map that pins all the areas serviced by Autism Toolkit as well as easy access to resources — as those seen on ‘the autism and me’ page – where parents and caregivers can use easy navigation to uncover topics like: Autism Medications Cheat Sheet, Autism Services for Adults and Teens, Medicaid and Autism Spectrum Disorder, Clinical Trials, Transportation, Jobs and so much more.

The Autism Toolkit also serves to help health care providers in rural and underserved areas in understanding where they can find access to help. Rotschafer added when speaking to WSAV3:

“Research has shown that some people may not be proceeding with referral steps because they either lack resources, or, they’re just not testing as regularly as would be ideal. So, we have some follow-up steps for health care providers so that their patients who are showing signs of autism can end up where they need to be.”

Mercer University College of Medicine and NLM encourage users to peruse the site and utilize all the resources available as it is serving to fill a gap in otherwise time-sensitive medical and education services otherwise unavailable to parents in underserved rural communities.