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), 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, DHS-6751L (PDF) 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.
You can also screen your child for free and bring those results to your child’s primary care doctor through the First Words Project.
Learn the Signs, Act Early has helpful information about the signs of developmental delays.
Early Childhood Screenings are 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.
Follow Along Program public health clinics provide 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.
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.
If you have concerns or have recently received a referral and a diagnosis of ASD or a related condition is suspected, contact your doctor or locate a provider to complete an assessment at Minnesotahelp.info or call the Disability Hub at 1-866-333-2466.
Doctors recommend children to be screened for their development at 9 months, 18 months and 24 or 30 months. Screenings are short tests to assess a child’s development and help identify delays. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) may be identified at 18 months or younger. It is recommended to have regular screenings to help early identification for services and supports as they are important in the developmental growth years.
If you still have concerns after visiting your doctor, ask for a referral to a specialist. Don’t wait; early screening and diagnosis is key to providing resources and tools at a young age. Early assessment does make a difference and most services require a medical diagnosis to qualify for services.
If you need more help, contact your local county agency or tribal offices to identify providers in your area or to receive information on financial assistance.
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: A Treatment Improvement Protocol (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.
The next step is to identify services and supports that are available. People with ASD or related conditions often need a variety of supports and services over the course of their lifetime. To meet each individual person and family’s needs, the state of Minnesota offers many programs, including those for health care, people with physical and developmental disabilities, educational and mental health services. Pathway to Services and Supports for Autism (PDF) provides resources and support information from all the State agencies in Minnesota. The Pathway is also available in Hmong, Oromo, Somali, Russian, Vietnamese, Karen and Spanish as well.
Families should understand that if ASD is identified through the school or an early childhood program the family can choose to seek additional tools and resources through their medical or community providers. Medical and community providers provide different focus and resources from educational resources. This may mean additional appointments, it can be overwhelming and challenging to have a lot of appointments but you can choose what works for the needs of the individual.
The Center for Parent Information and Resources share a blog to help parents understand that they are not alone when learning that their child has a disability.