What is the  CoBALT (Community-Based Autism Liaison and Treatment) Project?

CoBALT’s mission is “ the right child to the right services at the right time and right place”. 

The James L. Dennis Developmental Center (DDC) is the primary center to conduct developmental diagnostic evaluations on children in the state of Arkansas.  Therefore, many families may face long waiting times to be seen at the DDC.  This waiting period can cause a child to lose valuable time in getting access to treatment. Additionally, slow referrals and lack of information on how to access therapies and waiver programs can contribute to a family’s frustration.

To help with this problem, CoBALT was created.

CoBALT is a joint venture between the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Department of Pediatrics and the Arkansas Department of Human Services Division of Developmental Disabilities Children with Special Health Care Needs (Title V CSHCN).  ​

In this program, DDC clinicians conduct annual training for “mini-teams”  who learn to do Tier 2 assessments to assess for developmental delays and Autism Spectrum Disorder concerns. As their skills mature, clinically experienced CoBALT teams have the capability to diagnose autism,  but a primary goal of the CoBALT teams is to diagnose developmental disorders that are NOT autism and to help families find appropriate services in their local community. When a CoBALT teams suspects an  Autism Spectrum Diagnosis, the child is referred on a “fast track” to the Dennis Developmental Center for a full autism team evaluation.  CoBALT teams therefore assist families to obtain quicker access to local resources or specialized developmental evaluations which results in a timely and appropriate diagnosis, and quicker referral for therapy services. 

Who is on a CoBALT mini-team? 

CoBALT teams are comprised of:

1)  medical professionals (Physician or Advanced Nurse Practitioner)  who are seasoned in assessing young children with developmental delays, has an interest in expanding diagnostic skills and being a knowledgeable provider of Early Intervention/Early Childhood referrals and family support.​

2) another professional that has knowledge of child development, who can complete diagnostic testing (Speech Pathologist, Psychologist, or Behavioral Specialist).

These teams participate in an intensive 2-3 day training with the facility and staff of the DDC who specialize in developmental disorders, especially Autism Spectrum Disorders.

During the training, CoBALT teams are educated about autism and developmental delays. They are given tools to screen and identify young children with a possible Autism Spectrum Disorder. Representatives from Early Intervention, Early Childhood, and Title V services in the CoBALT team’s area of Arkansas are also invited and are introduced to the teams to facilitate direct network building, thereby helping forge and strengthen relationships between CoBALT teams and DHS resources.  Teams also have to opportunity to connect with family support resources such as AAROC (Arkansas Autism Resource and Outreach Center).

With greater knowledge about the diagnostic process,  comorbidities that accompany ASDs, and information about therapies /programs for families to pursue,  the CoBALT teams will be stronger community resources for families, schools, and care providers.

In their respective local areas, CoBALT teams can assess children ages 12-42 months, who present with developmental delays and ASD concerns.

Who is in charge of the CoBALT Project?

The Cobalt leadership team is based at the UAMS Dennis Developmental Center (DDC) . The  team is comprised of :

Principal  Investigator:  Jayne Bellando, Ph.D.

Co-director: Jaimie Flor, M.D.
Specialty nurse/Triage nurse: Rae Lynn Johnson

Coordinator/Logistic Support: Stefanie Jernigan

CoBALT representative:  Sheryl Davide-Ureta, M.D.  (ACH CoBALT team)

The DDC team-in-charge is responsible for setting up annual trainings. In addition, the leadership team  provides ongoing support to the community CoBALT teams by:

  • Scheduling  DDC evaluations as requested by CoBALT teams
  •       Directing patients to an appropriate CoBALT team in the community
  •       Providing  information about  didactics  relevant to the team’s practice (example: journal articles pertinent to DD/ASD practice; participation in lecture series,  mini- lectures during teleconference meetings quarterly)
  • Answering questions CoBALT teams may have

Who are the current CoBALT teams?

We envision a hub model, with trained regional providers linked to CoBALT leadership at UAMS DDC  for training, support, continuing education, and clinical consultation.

These regional teams are:

Little Rock

Sheryl Davide-Ureta, M.D.;
Laura Clark, APRN;
Aubrey Berber APRN
ACH General Pediatrics
1 Children’s Way
Little Rock, Ar. 72202
501 364-1050

Forrest City

Curt Patton, M.D.
East Ar. Children’s Clinic
901 Holiday Drive
Forrest City, Ar. 72335
870 633-0880


Ron Beckel, M.D.
Kelley Dotson, APRN
Mountain View Clinic
1102 Crestwood Circle
Mena, Ar. 71953
479 394-7301


Barry Allen, M.D.
Community Clinic of Northwest Ar
1233 W. Popular St.
Rogers, Ar. 72756

Fort Smith

Casey Stewart, M.D.;
Jennifer Johnson, M.D.
RVPSC Northside Clinic
4900 Kelley Hwy.
Fort Smith, Ar.

Mandi Williams, APRN
Center for Psychiatric Wellness
7217 Cameron Park Dr.
Fort Smith, Ar. 72903


Vern Ann Shotts, M.D.
Child and Adolescent Clinic
1204 W. Kings highway
Paragould, Ar. 72450


Ayesha Shah, M.D.
Pediatric Associates
200 Pine St.
Marion, AR. 72367

Batesville (held quarterly)

Gwen White, M.D.
The Children’s Clinic
1770 Harrison St. Suite N
Batesville, Ar. 72501


We expect to train teams annually. Trained teams are expected to conduct Tier 2 evaluations and make subsequent  referrals to DDS (Early Intervention or  Early Childhood Program, depending on age at referral) or to the DDC for further diagnostic clarification. Team performance will be monitored  to track numbers of children/families served.

The CoBALT project manager will report quarterly to DDS. Outcomes to be scrutinized include:  changes in Early Intervention/Early Childhood access,  numbers of referrals to the DDC from the CoBALT teams, time frames from identification of need to receipt of services and appropriate evaluations.

CoBALT has been collecting quality improvement data since the Fall of 2016.


What are the future plans of the CoBALT Project?

Future as well as ongoing plans include:

a) support and maintenance of existing teams
b) refining the training component to include Tier III evaluations for ASD
c) training additional teams as needs and interest from other community medical providers manifest

In addition, CoBALT is committed to promoting awareness and providing educational opportunities regarding ASD. With this in mind, CoBALT is engaged in an ongoing,  two-year didactic program on Autism,  with the Connecting Across Professions (CAP) tele-education series through UAMS Learning on Demand. The lecture series is entitled: Autism Spectrum Disorder: Moving the Needle to help children and families in Arkansas. To register for Learn on Demand and series notifications, visit www.learnondemand.org

To learn more about CoBALT and see our information about providers and families: Visit www.cobaltar.org

If you are interested in becoming a member of the CoBALT family, please contact:

Dr. Jayne Bellando (Email: BellandoJayne@uams.edu)

Dr. Jaimie Flor (Email: JMFlor@uams.edu)