FYI, the Institute on Community Integration Staff Newsletter

November 2014

ICI Promotes Early Screening for Autism, Other Neurodevelopmental Disabilities

Developmental disabilities are common in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 1 in 4 children are at risk for a developmental delay, and 1 in 6 has been diagnosed with a developmental disability. Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or other neurodevelopmental disabilities (NDD) can achieve better outcomes if they are identified early and receive services promptly. Promoting early screening and intervention is the basis of the “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” (LTSAE) campaign of the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities at the CDC, in collaboration with the Maternal and Child Health Bureau of the Health Resources and Services Administration. The Institute on Community Integration (ICI) leads the Minnesota Act Early team, the statewide branch of this national campaign.

Minnesota Act Early, co-led by ICI’s Jennifer Hall-Lande and Kelly Nye-Lengerman, reaches out to organizations and communities to promote early screening and identification. Access to early screening and diagnosis is not uniform throughout the population. For instance, nationally, there are significant disparities in age of initial ASD diagnosis; children from diverse communities are less likely to be diagnosed with ASD and are typically diagnosed later. This delay in diagnosis delays access to specialized early intervention. To address this, the Minnesota Act Early project specifically reaches out to culturally-diverse communities.

The Minnesota Act Early team educates about healthy development, early signs of ASD and NDDs, the importance of regular developmental screening, and intervention when there is a concern. Jennifer performs additional outreach as an Act Early Ambassador, a two-year appointment by the CDC and the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD). She notes, “Early screening and subsequent early intervention are key to optimal outcomes. It makes sense to measure developmental milestones in young children. At screening checkups, we regularly measure characteristics like height and weight, but we need to also pay attention to development and intervene early when there are concerns. The Minnesota Act Early project is actively promoting this important message in our state.”

Spreading the Act Early message takes many forms. Among them:

  • Development of the statewide Minnesota Act Early Network.

  • Outreach to diverse communities, and translation of materials into multiple languages.

  • Delivery of Webinars, including the upcoming “Building Connections with Hmong Families: Culturally Competent Approaches to Child Development” on Friday, November 21 (FFI see

  • Presentations for numerous groups including Head Start, Parents in Community Action, Minnesota Social Services Association, and Early Childhood Family Education, as well as the AUCD 2014 annual conference where a poster session, “Engaging Communities One State at a Time: Promotion of ‘Learn the Signs. Act Early.’ Through State Systems Grants” was given.

Minnesota Act Early is a multi-year project. A related, recently-funded project is a statewide implementation grant awarded to the Minnesota Department of Health that supports LTSAE work with diverse communities. Jennifer, Anab Gulaid, Joe Timmons, and Amy Hewitt will be involved in this new effort through a subcontract to ICI.

FFI on the Minnesota Act Early project, contact Jennifer at