Although every child is unique and will learn and grow at their own pace, children are expected to develop in similar ways. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Learn the Signs, Action Early, children reach milestones in how they play, learn, speak, act, and move (crawling, walking, etc.). Skills such as taking a first step, smiling for the first time, and waving “bye bye” are called developmental milestones. Keeping track of developmental milestones will allow you to:
DON’T WAIT! Early intervention programs can make a big difference!
The First Steps: Pathway to learning, playing and growing provides a summary of key developmental milestones that babies and toddlers should be achieving. It also has tips, tools and guidance to help your child’s development. In addition, it describes what resources are available to parents and caregivers who have questions or concerns about their child’s development. This document is intended to be shared during home visits and in clinics, childcare and pre-school settings.
Make an appointment with your child’s primary care doctor if they not are meeting important developmental milestones. The Follow Along Program through public health clinics provides developmental and social emotional (behavior) screenings that can help you track your child’s development and let you know if your child is playing, talking, growing, moving and behaving like other children the same age.
Pathfinder Health is a collaborative child development tracker for parents and their care team. The tracker is available online or to download from the App Store on your mobile device. Pathfinder Health is the only app that empowers you to effectively track your child's development against CDC and AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) clinical guidelines, identify red flags, and helps you provide data-driven inputs to your primary care provider. All while connecting with your family, developing relationships with caregivers, doing fun everyday activities, and forming a stronger bond with your baby.
The Survey of Well-being of Young Children (SWYC) is an initial step in assessing a child’s risk of developmental-behavioral concerns (0-5 ½). It is FREE and take 10 minutes to complete. There are also resources for childcare and other providers.
Screening and identification
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends autism screenings to be part of all 18 and 24-month well-child checkups. Screenings are short tests to assess a child’s development and help identify if a child is not meeting critical developmental milestones. If a concern is identified, the primary care provider should make a referral for additional testing and evaluation. Child and Teen Checkups (C&TC) are provided free every year to children birth up to age 21 who are enrolled in Medical Assistance or MinnesotaCare.
Refer to the Developmental, Social-Emotional, and Autism Spectrum Disorder Screening in Early Childhood C&TC Fact Sheet for Primary Care Providers (PDF) for more information on screening tools and recommendations. Screening and Diagnosing for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in Pediatric Care Settings is a webinar hosted by the MN Chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics and presented by MN Department of Human Services. The webinar provides an overview of the characteristics of ASD and best practice in identifying children early in order to access the services and supports they may need.
If you have concerns after visiting your doctor, ask for a referral to a specialist. Don’t wait; early screening and diagnosis is key to accessing early intervention services and supports. Early intervention does make a difference and most services require a medical diagnosis (PDF) to be eligible.
You can also contact a Comprehensive Multi-Disciplinary Evaluation (CMDE) provider to determine eligibility and medical necessity for Early Intensive Developmental and Behavioral Intervention (EIDBI) services. Search the Minnesota Health Care Program (MHCP) Provider Directory by selecting “EIDBI” and then “CMDE” as the sub-type.
If you need additional assistance, contact your local county agency or tribal offices to identify providers in your area or to receive information on financial assistance.
Educational screening and identification
Early Childhood Screenings are also provided by local school districts with the goal of identifying potential health or developmental problems in young children who may need further evaluation. An Early Childhood Screening, or similar health and developmental screening, is required for children to enter Kindergarten in Minnesota public schools. For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact your local school district or call the Minnesota Department of Education at 651-582-8412.
Even before your child receives a formal medical diagnosis, your local school district is a resource for referrals and services. For children birth to age 5, contact Help Me Grow Minnesota. For children over the age of 5, contact your local school district for special education services.
The Overview of Medical Identification and Educational Determination of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) resource helps to clarify the difference between a medical diagnosis and an educational determination and why it is important to access both.
ASD can be diagnosed at any age. The CDC provides more information on ASD in teens and adults. If you receive a referral or suspect a diagnosis of ASD or a related condition for you or your child, contact your doctor or locate a provider to complete an assessment at Minnesotahelp.info or call the Disability Hub at 1-866-333-2466.
If you need additional assistance, contact your local county agency or tribal offices or Disability Hub MN to identify providers in your area or to receive information on financial assistance. For children over the age of 5, contact your local school district for special education services.
The Autism Society works to ensure that every adult with autism has access to services and supports that maximize independence and secure the highest quality of life. For many, employment and living in the community are goals to pursue during adulthood.
People who provide services and supports for people who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or related conditions must evaluate and conduct assessments in a culturally responsive and sensitive way. This ensures accurate diagnosis and referral. Proper diagnosis and evaluation helps the person and family make informed choices and ensures they are referred to the right services and supports.
Improving Cultural Competence (PDF) developed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guide: Practical Strategies for Culturally Competent Evaluation (PDF)
Act Early Culturally Competent Autism Screening Kit (PDF) is created by the Massachusetts Act Early to promote the early identification of autism spectrum disorders across culturally and linguistically diverse populations.