Early childhood development and intervention
Screening for and addressing the first signs of neurodevelopmental and related disabilities can make a dramatic impact on a child’s life. That first smile, a gurgling sound, beginning to follow moving objects … all of these important milestones begin at just 2 months of age and continue throughout the pre-Kindergarten years as language and other cognitive functions form. Intervening promptly during this critical time of brain development is necessary if there are concerns, but not all parents receive this vital information in a way that supports them in acting early. As Minnesota’s Act Early team, the early childhood development and intervention team works throughout the state to promote awareness of key developmental milestones and provide screenings for children under 3. As part of a network of state liaisons to the national “Learn the Signs. Act Early” campaign, the team places particular emphasis on partnering with communities to increase screening rates in culturally-diverse communities, with a goal of promoting early identification and reducing the age of diagnosis. Research projects in this area evaluate the effectiveness of public awareness campaigns and learning materials, including Act Early children’s story books that help parents better understand and identify developmental milestones. This program area also oversees ICI’s contributions to the Minnesota Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and related Disabilities (MNLEND) program, which develops the next generation of leaders in the neurodevelopmental disabilities field.