The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now estimate that 1 in 88 children has been identified with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). More generally, about 1 in 6 children between the ages of 3 and 17 has a developmental disability. In other words, developmental challenges, including ASD, are common. They are also highly treatable, especially when intervention begins early in life.
For these reasons, the CDC and its national partners want to change the way we think about early childhood development: Just as height and weight are familiar measures of physical growth, certain predictable signs of social and emotional development give us important information about how a child is maturing. For example, smiling, pointing, and enjoying social play are some of the skills that every child should reach within a certain range of time. These skills are called developmental milestones.
Act Early." campaign sponsored by the CDC. Primarily a health education initiative, the Campaign has created many helpful materials that promote a greater understanding of the social and emotional components of early childhood development. Many of their materials, including those for non-English speakers, are incorporated into this section of our Virtual Resource Center.
Early Screening is important because research has shown that the sooner therapeutic intervention begins, the greater the potential to reduce the long-term impact of a developmental delay. This often means referring a child to NH Family Centered Early Supports and Servicesor preschool special education even before a formal diagnosis is made. In fact, a referral can be made even if the child is ultimately found to have no long term developmental differences. A positive screening for autism or another serious developmental disability does not mean that they "have" this condition. It simply means that more evaluation is needed; and in the meantime, an individualized therapeutic program may be beneficial.
Many parents describe the process of coming to understand their child's unique developmental differences as a journey, rather than a single point in time. Evaluation by a child development specialist, and if appropriate, a formal diagnosis, are important, but they often raise more questions than they answer: What exactly is autism? Why does it impact some children one way and some in another? What treatment options are "the best"; or the best for my child?
The word that parents use most often to describe the first few months of coming to understand their child's developmental disability is "overwhelming." There is so much to learn: Confusing new words, treatment options, and different ways to pay for services. Despite the very real potential for "information overload," experienced parents report that the sooner they received information about their child's needs and how to address them, the better. Much of the information in this Getting Started section is organized to allow the reader to go at his or her own pace, from basic to more detailed, as they become familiar with best practices and what researchers do -- and don't -- know aboutthe autism spectrum. We also encourage parents new to a diagnosis, to reach out to family support services and to connect with others who have been on this same journey.
Copyright (c) 2012 NH Council on ASD, all right reserved
The NH Council on Autism Spectrum Disorders gratefully acknowledges the support of the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs (AMCHIP), which helped to fund the development of this website through a grant promoting