From delayed diagnoses to missed opportunities for age-appropriate care, too many children with disabilities — especially children in under-resourced communities — start kindergarten without much-needed support and resources.
In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics found that Black children with autism and other disabilities are diagnosed an average of three years after their parents first express concerns about their development. This prevents children from getting the timely care and support they need to improve their health and develop skills that can help them succeed in school.
Longstanding, systemic inequities like this were also exacerbated by the COVID pandemic, which caused steep declines in primary and preventive healthcare services among many children with special needs and those living in low-income households.
We’re partnering with Easterseals to find new ways to help.
Laying the Groundwork Through the Black Child Fund
In 2021, our foundation, the Abbott Fund, became the first sponsor of Easterseals’ Black Child Fund to help address health disparities and ensure timely diagnosis and treatment for Black children with autism and other disabilities.
In its first year, the Black Child Fund helped families in Illinois, Missouri and Kansas gain access to developmental screenings and early intervention services including physical, occupational and speech therapies for autism and other disabilities. The number of Black families seeking services and support from Easterseals in these markets increased 87%, with more than 300 Black children screened for early diagnosis of autism and other disabilities in just one year. Of these children, 80% were five years old or younger, with 75% requiring and receiving additional services through Easterseals.
Looking beyond the numbers, the Black Child Fund also has helped strengthen relationships between Black communities and service providers, fostering more equitable and more culturally responsive services and support for children with disabilities and their families.
We made a lot of progress in a short time, but it’s clear there’s more to be done.
Launching a New Pilot Program to Improve Health Equity
To build on the impact of the Black Child Fund, we’re expanding our work with Easterseals to pilot their newest program, the Project on Education and Community Health Equity (PEACHE). Supported by a $750,000 grant from the Abbott Fund, this three-year program aims to break down barriers to high-quality education and healthcare for children and families in under-resourced communities to help them prepare for kindergarten and reach their full potential.
The PEACHE program focuses on three areas:
- Developing a cultural competency training program, resource library and standards of teaching
- Providing targeted social services to help families overcome gaps in basic needs, including nutrition, transportation and other social and economic barriers
- Building the PEACHE Data Dashboard to facilitate data collection for all Easterseals Affiliates and their community partners to better understand the relationship between early childhood healthcare access and educational performance