April 2024
Jennifer Hall-Lande in 2022 at CDC headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia.

Jennifer Hall-Lande in 2022 at CDC headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia.

A monthly professional development series helping early childhood and other professionals sharpen their skills in identifying signs of autism and other developmental delays is drawing more than 500 participants per session, an indicator of the need for information and resources to help families who may lack access to critical services.

The Minnesota Department of Health, along with the Minnesota Act Early Project and Follow Along Program, are presenting the series. Minnesota Act Early is a project of the Institute on Community Integration funded by the CDC’s Learn the Signs, Act Early project .

“This series has been really well received and has been a great partnership between ICI and the Department of Health,” said Jennifer Hall-Lande, who leads the MN Act Early Project. “The theme running through the entire series is early identification and connecting communities to resources. We know that about one in four children are at risk for a developmental delay, so the fact that it is so common makes it imperative that we provide knowledge and resources to professionals working directly with children.”

Children and youth with disabilities are at risk of having adverse childhood experiences, but early intervention is critical in helping mitigate the risk, said Michele Kvikstad, early identification and intervention coordinator for the Health Department’s Follow Along Program .

“Our hope is that providers and caregivers supporting young children and families learn about the importance of developmental and social-emotional screening through this series,” Kvikstad said. “Early identification of autism and developmental delays is critical in getting children and families the support they need to support their overall health and well-being.”

In addition to informing professionals about resources they can connect families to needed services, the series will also discuss mental health support services for at-risk children, overcoming long waitlists and other barriers, and important screening measures.

“Our tools for screening and follow-up are not always designed with all children and families in mind,” Kvikstad said. “Getting information to families in a culturally and linguistically inclusive way has been an important aspect of this project. The waiting lists for service are often long, but there are many resources and programs to support children and families while they wait.”

Though the series is geared to professionals, anyone is welcome to attend. To learn more about the series, contact Krista Stokes, project coordinator, at iten0009@umn.edu. Click here to register directly.