Provider News

The Autism Center Introduces the New ATLAS Class to Connect Kids to Care More Quickly

October 4, 2023

The Autism Center has revamped the way children with an autism diagnosis and their families will access services. The first step for almost all families is now to take our new ATLAS Class. ATLAS stands for Accessing Treatment, Learning and Support.  Here is what referring providers need to know:

What is the ATLAS Class?

Seattle Children's Autism CenterATLAS is a 90-minute class designed to teach families the basics of navigating services at the Autism Center and in the community. Objectives include:

  • Identifying their goals for their child and family
  • Learning about the services, classes and groups available at Seattle Children’s and elsewhere in the community
  • Building a roadmap (atlas) for next steps that will best meet their family’s and child’s needs

The ATLAS instructor will provide families with up-to-date wait times for various Autism Center services. This information will help families decide if it makes sense to consider community care options that may be available sooner.

Benefits of ATLAS

Before ATLAS, the Autism Center had capacity to see about 20 new families each month via individual visits; with ATLAS, we can get about 100 new families in the door each month. Families who complete the ATLAS class will be able to self-refer to the Autism Center’s services based on their goals. For example, families can choose to sign up for a Medical Care Consult if they want a visit with an autism provider, but they will know the wait and what they can do while waiting.

Classes and services available at the Autism Center

ATLAS participants will learn about the what the Autism Center does and doesn’t offer and the various education classes and resource and navigation classes.

Services offered

  • Initial evaluations for autism
  • Family education and resource navigation classes
  • Support finding community resources
  • Short-term therapies including:
    • Parent coaching for behavior
    • Group therapy for mood and anxiety challenges
    • Feeding therapy
    • Early intervention for Medicaid-eligible families
  • Autism Medical Care Consultation
  • Psychiatric and Medication Consultation

Services NOT offered

  • Evaluations focused around:
    • Diagnostic re-evaluations or second opinions
    • Comprehensive or neuropsychological evaluation (such as academic or IQ testing)
    • Educational evaluations and consultations for school
    • Evaluations for legal purposes
  • Social skills groups
  • Long-term medication management
  • Long-term therapies such as speech and occupational therapy
  • In-home therapies

Education classes – all virtual

  • Feeding Foundation series
  • Early Communication series
  • Anxiety series
  • Next Steps to Transition series
  • First Steps: New Diagnosis
  • Behavior
  • Constipation
  • Toileting
  • Sleep Problems

Resource and navigation classes – all virtual

  • Finding ABA
  • Navigating School Supports
  • Mental Health Services for Autism
  • Applying for DDA
  • Washington State Autism Resources

ATLAS class cadence and format

ATLAS is offered weekly to groups of up to 25 caregivers at a time; the small-format class allows time for questions and some discussion. The class is focused on caregivers; the child/teen does not need to join. It is currently offered via telehealth in English; there is an alternative option for those who are unable to attend virtually or prefer care in a language other than English.

What happened to the First Steps class?

ATLAS replaces our First Steps class series, which we still offer but instead of being a three-part series, it is now a single class focused on what autism is, what causes it and common treatments.  It has a new name: First Steps: New Diagnosis. Families with a new diagnosis will find it educational, but some families won’t need it. The other two parts of the old First Steps class have been transitioned into two class offerings that are available to families who have completed the ATLAS class.

For new families who have a diagnosis, we recommend taking ATLAS first to start navigating our services and then taking our First Steps: New Diagnosis class if they want to learn more about autism.

Minimizing PCP workload in referral/intake process

One of our goals in establishing the ATLAS class was to reduce the burden on PCPs who are referring families to us, especially when they are not sure what we offer. Families who complete the ATLAS class will be able to self-refer to the classes and services they need and complete their own intake forms, as they are experts on their child. There are a few exceptions:

  • Psychiatric and Medication Consultation clinic – The PCP will need to sign off to indicate the patient will be returned to their care following the initial medication consultation and stabilization at the Autism Center, per the Autism Center’s protocol.
  • Pediatric Feeding Program – The PCP will fill out a brief form, i.e., regarding need for a swallow study and child weight/other concerns.
  • Early Intervention ABA Program – The PCP will help the family complete a brief form and make sure they have the necessary ABA orders from a Center of Excellence to participate in our ABA Center of Excellence program.

Referral information for providers

  • ATLAS Class: Use the New Appointment Request Form (NARF) and write “ATLAS Class” (patient must have an autism diagnosis).
  • Other services:
    • Psychiatric medication: If you know specifically your patient needs a psychiatric medication evaluation, you may refer directly to that rather than ATLAS. Write “psychiatric medication evaluation” on the NARF.
    • Feeding support: If a family is doing well overall but struggling specifically with a feeding concern, then you may refer them directly to the Feeding Foundations class (once a week for four weeks) or the Pediatric Feeding Program rather than ATLAS. Specify the class or program on the NARF.
    • Evaluation for autism: Please state clearly on the NARF “evaluation for autism” so that we can direct them appropriately in a timely manner. Many PCPs put the evaluation request in their notes but not on the referral form itself; having it on the referral ensures it will be seen quickly and scheduled expeditiously, and your patient won’t be mistakenly directed to the ATLAS Class (which they cannot attend without a diagnosis).
    • Autism Medical Care Consultation: If you want your patient to be seen by an autism provider to talk about treatment options, you can refer for an Autism Medical Care consult. Please also refer them to the ATLAS class so they can get guidance while they wait (currently two to three years) for this visit type.

More information

Visit the Autism Center Refer a Patient page for more details.

ATLAS class flyer

In case you missed it: Referral policy changes

Effective August 21, Seattle Children’s will no longer redirect referrals internally to the Autism Center when they are initially submitted to Speech, Psychiatry, Neurodevelopmental, Neurosciences or other ambulatory clinics. Instead, the referral will be closed and a notification sent to the referring provider with a request to refer directly to the Autism Center. Learn more about referral guidelines for the Autism Center.