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Autism: Be a Family's Champion, Learn the Signs

One family's champion

Photo: Roxane Romanik"Roxane came into my family's life shortly after my youngest son was born. He appeared to have developmental problems early on and a physician referred us to the local early intervention program and Roxane was the Experienced Parent for the program. From Roxane, I learned about child development and how it related to my son and where his delays lie. She described to me the importance of early intervention and the early signs to watch for. My son was suspected of having autism. Roxane was instrumental in providing a way for us to get to an autism clinic. We made it through the clinic and diagnosis, all the while knowing that Roxane was supporting me. Roxane supported me and my son, who thrived in early intervention. Words will never be able to express how thankful I am for her teaching me early development and being my trusted friend."
—Vicki Peterson, parent.

Do you know all the ways to measure a child's growth?

We naturally think of height and weight, but from birth to 5 years, a child should reach milestones in how he plays, learns, speaks and acts. A delay in any of these areas could be a sign of a developmental problem, even autism. The good news is, the earlier it's recognized, the more can be done to help a child reach her full potential.

First, test your milestone-spotting skills!

Knowing what to look for is a key to knowing if a child is developing well. Try our new Milestones Quiz to see if you can spot some important developmental milestones. Need to sharpen your skills? Visit our developmental milestones page.

Next, encourage a parent to watch for and record their child's milestones

CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities' "Learn the Signs. Act Early." Interactive Milestones Checklist is a great way for parents and other caregivers to record the milestones a child is reaching and provides an easy way to share this information with the child's doctor or nurse at the next checkup.

To try out this tool:

  • Go to the Interactive Milestones Checklist.
  • Select the age of the child and click "Go."
  • Type in the child's name, age, and today's date.
  • Check off the milestones the child has already achieved.
  • Click "Create Checklist."
  • Print and/or email this record.
  • Ask a relative, friend, or daycare provider to tell you what they see the child doing.
  • Print off a blank checklist or send it to them via email.

What Can I Do if I Suspect a Problem with a Child's Development?

Sharing your concerns with the child's parents may be a crucial step to that child getting the help he or she might need at the earliest age possible, but it is often a difficult conversation. If not done well, it can result in hurt feelings and a strained relationship. Before having this discussion, be sure to consider these "do's and don'ts" from parents who have been through this experience.

Share your concerns with the child's parents along with the resources you have found here and on the "Learn the Signs. Act Early." website. Remind them that acting early if they are concerned provides their child the best opportunity to reach his or her full potential and that there is help and support available. Share the information on the "Learn the Signs. Act Early." campaign's "If you're concerned…" web page, and encourage them to start by talking with their child's doctor.

Photo: A childcare professional wit hthre children.To help a child with a developmental problem reach his or her full potential, it's important to act early. So if you're concerned about a child, don't wait. Use these resources to find the best way to share your concerns with the child's parents and encourage them to talk with their child's doctor. Acting early can make a real difference!

Parents, nominate YOUR Champion for Families

Would you like to thank someone who helped you when you first became concerned about your child's development? CDC's "Learn the Signs. Act Early." campaign calls these special people Champions for Families and we want to recognize them. Visit "Learn the Signs. Act Early." to learn how to submit your nomination.

More Information

  • Page last reviewed: April 18, 2011
  • Page last updated: April 18, 2011
  • Content source:
    • Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs
    • Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs