A Recap of the Innovative
“Learn the Signs. Act Early.” Looks Ahead
What’s Going On?
Kudos to You!
On the Horizon
What People Are Saying
Campaign and national partners successfully wrap up Innovative Initiatives program
Last year, “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” teamed up with its national partners to extend the reach of the campaign among underserved populations, health care professionals, child care providers, and the public health community.
The Innovative Initiatives program proved to us what we already knew to be true: working together, there is no mission impossible. In a previous issue, you read about the work of the Organization for Autism Research. Following is a recap of the projects implemented by the Autism Society of America, Autism Speaks, and First Signs.
WHO: Autism Society of America (ASA)
THE MISSION: To increase awareness of the signs of developmental delays and the importance of early childhood screening among rural, minority, and low-income communities.
THE PROJECT: To train local ASA chapters to conduct grassroots outreach and increase distribution of the campaign’s materials among underserved communities.
THE TEST: ASA selected 14 chapters reaching underserved populations to participate in the project. The chapters were trained on the campaign, its materials, and best practices for identifying and reaching priority communities. Each chapter received a supply of campaign materials and kept track of its distribution process.
Below are a few examples of the innovative ways the chapters distributed campaign materials:
- A targeted mailing to American Indian reservations across North Dakota.
- A presentation in Nashville to 25 school administrators on the importance of the campaign’s message to early intervention and preschool programs.
- Targeted visits to child care centers in San Antonio by Spanish-speaking ASA chapter staff.
Overall, ASA chapters distributed nearly 700 campaign kits to underserved communities.
WHO: First Signs
THE MISSION: To educate health care professionals about the importance of early identification of and intervention for young children at risk for autism and other developmental delays and to improve pediatric screening and referral practices.
THE PROJECT: Conduct two trainings of First Signs’ accredited course, Improving Developmental Screening Practices for Young Children with Autism & Other Developmental Disorders.
THE TEST: Working with CDC, First Signs selected Columbus, Ohio, and Houston, Texas, to execute its training course. The 3-hour course teaches health care professionals how to recognize the warning signs of child development, the clinical features of autism spectrum disorders, best practices for screening, and where to refer patients for treatment.
There was great demand in both cities for the trainings with more than 200 participants in Ohio and 117 in Texas.
Participants experienced an overall increase in knowledge about social, emotional, and communication milestones; early signs for autism spectrum disorders; the importance of routine developmental screening; and local and federal referral guidelines. Upon completing the course, participants received continuing education credits along with First Signs and “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” materials
WHO: Autism Speaks
THE MISSION: To increase knowledge of developmental milestones among early childhood educators and give them tools for talking to parents about a child’s development.
THE PROJECT: To develop an educational video with motivational messages about interacting with and engaging parents of children who may be at risk for autism.
THE TEST: Early childhood educators spend lots of time watching children and often notice when a child is not reaching typical developmental milestones. Yet, many do not feel comfortable talking to parents about a child’s potential developmental delays. To help them discuss this sensitive topic, Autism Speaks developed a free, downloadable action kit for early childhood educators. The kit includes a video that shows how they can talk with parents about child development and any concerns they might have about a child. The video contains real-life situations, strategies, and success stories. As part of the Innovative Initiatives project, Autism Speaks translated the kit and video into Spanish. The kit includes a milestone map for early childhood educators to give to parents so they can track their child’s development at home. For more information, and to download a free kit, please click here.
The Organization for Autism Research, a national partner, also implemented an Innovative Initiatives project focusing on increasing awareness of developmental delays among Hispanic parents using promotoras (lay community health educators). To read about OAR’s project in the previous newsletter, please click here.
Thanks to all of our national partners for their continued support and dedication to increasing awareness of child development and warning signs of developmental disabilities like autism.
"Learn the Signs. Act Early."
The start of a new year is the perfect time to look to the future and the promise it holds. As we usher in 2009, we’re excited to share some new campaign initiatives.
New Efforts to Reach Hispanic Parents
The campaign is rejoining forces with one of our national partners, the Organization for Autism Research (OAR). OAR reached hundreds of Spanish-speaking parents in Georgia to educate them about child development and warning signs of developmental delay. The campaign and OAR have teamed up again to reach even more parents in Georgia, as well as in Washington, D.C., Houston, and Los Angeles. OAR will be training more promotoras and finding local heroes to speak to families in their communities. OAR will also be attending Hispanic health fairs, community events, and conferences to speak with parents and continue educating families about the milestones that mark a child’s development.
To equip the hero in every parent, OAR will be working with the campaign to develop fotonovelas, popular storybooks in the Hispanic culture. The fotonovelas will teach Hispanic parents about early childhood development and milestones and how to “act early” if they suspect their child might have a developmental delay.
Expanding Outreach to Health Care Professionals
Our research has shown that since the campaign launched, more pediatricians regularly screen for developmental delays and fewer tell parents to “wait and see” when they have a concern about their child’s development. As the campaign progresses, we are extending our education efforts to include allied health professionals and neonatal nurses.
Children with difficulties in speech or language may be referred to a speech pathologist or audiologist for treatment. These problems, however, could also be a sign of a developmental delay. Allied health professionals—speech, occupational, physical therapists—are often the first to see children with developmental delays and are in a unique position to identify children in need of developmental screening. The campaign will be creating messages and materials to educate allied health professionals about the importance of looking at the broader issues of a child’s overall developmental health and how to refer a child for screening and care.
Parents of children who are born prematurely or who require care in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) are naturally concerned about their child’s health and development. These parents need specific information, based on their child’s unique needs, and they look to the neonatal nurses for information on what to expect as their child grows and develops. The campaign is reaching out to neonatal nurses, to give them resources to educate parents and support them in monitoring their child’s development.
Campaign Collaborates with the Association of University Centers on Disabilities
“Learn the Signs. Act Early.” partnered with the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) to plan and host a series of Act Early Regional Summits. These meetings gather parents and representatives from state public health agencies, early intervention agencies, medical organizations, and universities. The goals of the Act Early Summits are to educate attendees about the campaign, to enhance collaboration among stakeholders, to gain a greater understanding of the opportunities and challenges of the systems that serve families and children with autism and other developmental disabilities, and to improve early identification of developmental disabilities and access to appropriate early intervention on a state level.
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In the spring of 2008, a Region 7 Summit in Kansas City, Missouri, convened state teams from Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska; a Region 6 Summit in Albuquerque, New Mexico, convened state teams from Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. The northern states of Region 4 (Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee) gathered in January 2009. State teams developed plans to disseminate “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” materials; increase communication among service systems; increase the numbers of trained professionals; and develop effective, evidence-based interventions and model approaches.
Plans are underway for summits in Region 2 (New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands) and Region 8 (Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming). Materials from the Act Early Summits and resources about ASD and early intervention are available on the AUCD website.
Reaching Moms through MOPS
In October 2008, “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” attended the Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) convention in Dallas. MOPS is an international, faith-based support network of women who have preschool-age children. The organization has more than 100,000 members in 3,900 groups across the United States.
At the convention, the campaign hosted a booth, distributed materials, and educated mothers about developmental milestones. Perhaps the most valuable aspect of attending the event was hearing the stories from mothers who were monitoring their child’s development. We heard from moms who thought something might be wrong but hadn’t had their child evaluated. We heard from moms who were having trouble getting services for their children with disabilities. And, we heard success stories from moms who acted early when they had a concern about their child’s development by reaching out to their child’s doctor and calling the early intervention program in their area.
We also learned the power of working with consumer organizations like MOPS whose members go back to their communities and share important information with their friends and family. We look forward to continuing to work with MOPS!
A New Campaign Resource – “Baby Steps: Learn the Signs. Act Early.”
In collaboration with CDC-TV, the campaign has produced and released a new online video, “Baby Steps: Learn the Signs. Act Early.” The educational video provides background information on the campaign and guidance on identifying developmental disabilities. “Baby Steps” details developmental milestones and gives parents action steps to take when they are concerned about their child’s development, such as talking to their child’s pediatrician and contacting early intervention services. The video is a great instructional tool for new parents, child care providers, and health care professionals. It features campaign developmental pediatrician Dr. Georgina Peacock and the parent of a child with special needs.
“Baby Steps,” is available for download, as a podcast, or for viewing by mobile phone. To watch the video, click here. We encourage you to watch the video and share it with others by e-mailing the web link or downloading the video.
As the campaign enters its fourth year, we continue to be amazed by the incredible support from our campaign champions. Over the past few months, several partners have implemented unique and impactful projects to help educate their communities about developmental milestones and early intervention.
Following is a summary of some of the amazing work being done in local communities by our champions. Hats off to you! With your help, we are able to reach more people with important campaign messages and materials.
Paint the Country Purple Winners: Norah Louise Johnson, Penelope Brennell, Julie Roscoe, and Dr. Diane R. Edwards
Last March, the “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” campaign issued a challenge to its champions and partners to “Paint the Country Purple” during Autism Awareness Month 2008 by conducting or participating in local activities to increase awareness of the importance of monitoring a child’s development. The four winners went above and beyond, executing projects that included improving health care for children with autism, increasing awareness of autism among legislators, and offering free screenings to underserved communities.
Emily Iland: Campaign Champion, California
Emily Iland wears many hats—mother, author, educator, advocate. Though she plays numerous roles, there is one thing that remains constant: her passion for educating people about developmental disabilities. In 2004, Emily and her sister wrote a comprehensive guidebook on autism for parents and professionals; the book was also translated into Spanish. Whenever Emily ships a book order, she inserts a “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” informational card, which is printed with English on one side and Spanish on the other, so that families have a quick list of key developmental milestones. Emily also conducts trainings on autism and developmental disabilities throughout the country. At every training, she uses and distributes campaign materials and encourages participants to share them with others.
Lisa Kowalski: Campaign Champion, Michigan
Lisa always had a passion for educating others about childhood development. This interest turned to action when the younger of her two boys, Aaron, was diagnosed with autism. Lisa worked with her local library system and the Autism Society of America–Oakland County Chapter to launch a donation book project in which more than $9,000 worth of books on autism spectrum disorders was distributed to 30 public libraries in her county alone. In addition to the books, each library received a box of “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” campaign materials to display and distribute. Each participating library set up a resource area featuring the donated books and campaign materials.
Have an Inspiring Story To Tell?
If you or someone you know has an inspiring story to tell as a result of becoming involved in the “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” campaign, please send it to email@example.com. We’re always looking for success stories to share with partners and campaign champions throughout the country. We want to hear from you
Special thanks to:
- All of our dedicated campaign champions who participated in the “Paint the Country Purple” Initiative.
- Dr. Christine Prue, former chief of the Prevention Research Branch at CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD), for her leadership and guidance of the “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” campaign. We wish her well in her new role as Associate Director for Communication Science in CDC’s National Center for Zoonotic, Vector-Borne, and Enteric Diseases.
And congratulations to Cathy Rice, PhD, and Marshalyn Yeargin-Allsopp, MD, colleagues of the “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” campaign staff at CDC’s NCBDDD, whose hard work and professional dedication was recently recognized with two prestigious awards: the Autism Society of America’s Wendy F. Miller Autism Professional of the Year Award (awarded to Dr. Rice) and the American Academy of Pediatrics, Council on Children with Disabilities’ Arnold J. Capute Award (awarded to Dr. Yeargin-Allsopp).
2009 Conferences: A Year in Preview
The campaign is gearing up to hit the road in 2009, making the rounds at conferences for a variety of audiences, including consumers, health care professionals, and early educators. If you are attending any of these conferences, please look for the campaign materials or presentations. We hope to see you there!
- American Academy of Family Physicians
- American Academy of Physician Assistants
- American Academy Pediatrics
- Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric, and Neonatal Nurses
- National Association for the Education of Young Children
- National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners
- National Head Start Association Annual Training Institute
Autism Awareness Month: It’s Just Around
As many of you know, the campaign recognizes Autism Awareness Month by asking partners to help implement activities to increase awareness of developmental milestones in their local communities. As we plan this year’s activities, we would like to hear about your outreach projects and how the campaign can support your efforts. Tell us about your plans by e-mailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org .
“The campaign materials are a wonderful and needed resource. They can really make a difference and help children living with disabilities be identified sooner and receive the help they need.”
- Emily Iland, campaign champion
“When I found these materials, I knew I had to share them with others, especially with the underserved populations in my community.”
- Lisa Kowalski, campaign champion