"Learn the Signs. Act Early." Campaign

It’s Time to Change How We View a Child’s Growth

By Georgina Peacock, MD, MPH, FAAP
CDC, National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities 

Research shows that children with developmental delays benefit considerably from early intervention services, yet half of these children are not identified until age five.  

While parents are very aware of changes in their young child’s physical development, such as height and weight, there are also important milestones children should reach in terms of how they play, learn, speak and act. Smiling for the first time, making eye contact, and pointing are just a few of these developmental milestones. A delay in any of these areas could be a sign of a developmental problem, even autism. The good news is that the earlier a delay is recognized the more you can do to help children reach their full potential. 

To educate parents about developmental milestones and warning signs of a development delay, such as autism, and the importance of acting early, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) created the “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” campaign. The campaign offers free materials and resources including fact sheets, milestone checklists, growth charts, and flyers, in English and Spanish. To order or download materials, visit here 

If a child’s parent has concerns, they should consult a developmental pediatrician or other specialist and can contact the local early intervention agency (for children under 3) or public school (for children 3 and older). To find out who to speak to in your area, contact the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities or call (800) 695-0285.  

Another initiative of the “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” campaign is the Act Early Regional Summits convened in partnership with the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD). The Act Early Regional Summits are a forum to bring together stakeholders to address challenges and opportunities in early identification, diagnosis, and service provision and coordination for children with ASD and their families. Act Early Regional Summit participants are from entities such as state offices on health, early intervention, special education, developmental disabilities, and Head Start, as well as representatives of community service providers, state legislators, pediatric medical home providers, parents and advocacy organizations. Through the Combating Autism Act Initiative (CAAI) of 2006, the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) at the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has joined with National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities to sponsor these activities.

For more information about the “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” campaign contact Georgina Peacock, MD, MPH, FAAP.