The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in collaboration with a coalition of national partners, is launching a new phase of the "Learn the Signs. Act Early" public awareness campaign. This childhood development campaign is designed to help increase awareness about the importance of tracking a child's social and emotional development, including the potential early warning signs of autism and other developmental disabilities.
The new phase targets more than 407,000 child care facilities in the United States and will provide free materials to help child care providers and preschool teachers educate parents about child development and autism.
"More than 8.7 million children younger than five years of age in the United States are in some type of child care arrangement," said Alison Johnson, acting director of CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. "Child care providers and preschool teachers are in a special position to watch for delays and to promote early identification and action when a delay is suspected. In fact, because they see children interact in peer groups, child care providers can be the first to observe early warning signs of a developmental delay such as autism."
The "Learn the Signs. Act Early" campaign has developed a free resource kit of materials on child development and autism for day care providers and teachers to share with parents of children in their care. The kit, available in both English and Spanish, includes a CD-ROM containing fact sheets on age-specific developmental milestones and on developmental disabilities such as autism, a growth chart that allows parents to track specific developmental milestones along with the height and weight of the child, and educational posters.
In a 2006 national survey of more than 6,000 parents, 49 percent mentioned learning and development as their major concerns when asked about their child's daycare or preschool. In light of these concerns, it is imperative that parents know what the developmental milestones are and when they should be occurring. No parent wants to find that his or her child has a delay. However, if parents can identify any delay early, they can seek appropriate help right away, which is always in their child's best interest.
The CDC campaign also encourages parents to ask their child's doctor or health care professional about any developmental concerns they might have. Parents can also call 1-800-CDC-INFO or visit www.cdc.gov/actearlyfor additional information. More information about the "Learn the Signs. Act Early" campaign and developmental milestones is available on the site, in addition to ordering information on the FREE Child Care Provider Resource Kit.
"Learn the Signs. Act Early" is a collaborative effort of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), Autism Speaks, the Autism Society of America (ASA), Cure Autism Now (CAN), First Signs, the Interagency Autism Coordinating Council (IACC), and the Organization for Autism Research (OAR).
Department of Health and Human Services