By March, an initial planning group was formed. Members of the planning group gathered information on all of the parent support groups across the state and contacted each one to ask for representation on the Consortium. Individual parent representatives were also contacted based on geographical and ethnic diversity. Leading providers of services for ASD and the Kentucky Autism Training Center were asked to designate representatives to serve on the Consortium. Finally, specific directors of special education were contacted based on recommendations from the parent groups. In order to be a member of the Consortium each person had to agree to attend an initial three-day retreat in Jabez Kentucky in April, 2002 and to abide by the operating guidelines for the Consortium.
The first step for the Consortium was to clearly define the population of children and youth they were targeting. The Consortium adopted the definition used by the Autism Society of America.
Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life. The result of a neurological disorder that affects the functioning of the brain, autism and its associated behaviors have been estimated to occur in as many as 2 to 6 in 1,000 individuals (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2001). Autism is four times more prevalent in boys than girls and knows no racial, ethnic, or social boundaries. Family income, lifestyle, and educational levels do not affect the chance of autism's occurrence.