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Feds Double Down On Developmental Screening


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With a new initiative, the Obama administration is looking to expand developmental and behavioral screening for children across the country.

The effort known as “Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive!” will engage educators, doctors, child care providers and other experts in local communities to encourage universal screening for kids and help families celebrate important milestones like a child’s first words or steps, officials said.

“With as many as one in four children at risk for a social delay or developmental disability, it’s critical to get screening resources in the hands of the adults who love, work and care for young children,” said U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. “This screening initiative will help identify warning signs early so that more children get the support they need as soon as possible.”

The joint effort from Sebelius’s agency and the U.S. Department of Education will offer information on research-based screening tools, guidance for professionals, a chart for families to track their child’s progress and tips for finding local resources.

Research shows that intervention is often most effective the earlier it begins in a child’s life. Screening is the first step toward getting assistance for kids who need it.

The announcement of “Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive!” comes on the heels of new data suggesting that autism is more common than previously thought. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week that 1 in 68 American children have the developmental disorder.

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Comments (11 Responses)

  1. autimsparent says:

    Never mind doubling down on screening. Focus more on the adult population. What the feds need to double down on is housing initiatives for children with autism who will age out of the system in the next 5-10 years. Where are these young adults, many of whom need support, suppose to live when an aging parent can no longer care for them? Many hospitals have already been closed. So what are the options? homelessness or prison.

  2. Tatsiana Eberhardt says:


    I can not share the excitement over expanding developmental and behavioral screenings for children. Paradoxical enough, more screening – more diagnoses, more labels, more intrusions into a fragile life course of a child. Why do we forget that we all are different? When did we start believing that smartness can be measured and predicted? Who told us that people should be equally smart or fast? Do such screenings allow for more opportunities or do they limit our children’s potential?
    I’ve heard stories… of devastated mothers. My coworker was told that her child is a possible candidate for special education. It seemed to the teacher that the boy was not paying enough attention to the subject. “How come?” – the mother asked. “He always retells me everything they covered during the class”. Do you think it’s a bias? I would say: “Very likely”. Who is to decide what is normal and what is not?
    What about parents seeking governmental support for their offsprings? Various educational and/or living programs, supportive apartments, financial subsidizing may become attractive attributes.
    My suggestion, let’s unite in an effort ensuring that children live in healthy environments. That they are not to witness drunk/high parents and domestic violence. That they are not to be talked down to. Maybe those are the main factors to our children’s “developmental delays”?

  3. Sharon says:

    I’m all for more screening…if you actually PROPERLY TRAIN the people doing the screening. It would be extremely beneficial in more remote, rural locations as well…not just the big metro areas. I also think a greater need is how to support those who are older than 5. Screening is only part of the issue and with budget cuts people who are already diagnosed are easy targets of those who think that families should just deal with it. Screening does not equal support! How about more supports?

  4. IDEA Part C says:

    It is good that Health and Human Services and Education are working together. Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is alive and well, though not adequately funded at the Federal level, in most states. Part C is a home visiting program offering developmental services and therapies to eligible infants, birth to 3, and their families. Part C programs are federally mandated. Services vary from state to state in terms of eligibility, types of services, etc. In most cases, the earlier the intervention, the more successful the outcome. We should look at more coordination and collaboration at the Federal level.

  5. Christina Schmidt says:

    Now if we can only get them to listen and act when it comes to parents saying that their child was fine before the vaccines then fell apart after! They need to research the ingredients of ALL childhood immunization schedule/vaccines and a correlation of autism!

  6. I'm a parent, too says:

    autismparent, screening is important because the earlier a developmental delay is caught, the earlier intervention can begin, and the better the outcome. That is not to say that there should not be energy focused on the adult population as well, but we have to catch kids early so that their issues can be mitigated while their brains are still malleable. Otherwise, we will have even *more* adults with intensive needs in the near future.

  7. Cathy says:

    I’m always so perplexed that they come up with “easy” answers since the situation isn’t easy. While they talk about helping the children, they can test and advise all they want but, let’s face it, more and more parents really don’t have an interest in their children. I also believe the government has its nose in too many places now and many of those children will do fine not being judged in their environment. There is a reason that homeschooling is booming. Let kids be kids and give them 5 good years without having someone breathing down their neck. Boy, they are really working to dig into our personal lives with this and that is probably my biggest issue. Reel your nose in big brother.

  8. howard miller says:

    We’ve got the prevalence figures for ASD up to 1:68 (from 3:10,000 in 1947 when Kanner first identified autism as a diagnosis). Either we’ve got a tidal wave of contagion or way too many false positives. In the former case we should be devoting our efforts to reduction of the epidemic. In the latter we should probably acknowledge that most children – my own included – are sometimes difficult and often behave idiosyncratically, and stop identifying millions of them as ‘on the spectrum.’ I understand though that the chance to diagnose, ‘treat’ and prescribe billions of dollars worth of medications is an opportunity that is incredibly hard to pass up for our ‘underfunded’ healthcare system but since we seem to have money to burn….

  9. Steve K says:

    Behind the feel good window dressing it sounds (to me) like the drug companies (and their big lobby in DC) want to sell more pills starting with one year olds. In my humble opinion.

  10. Concerned parent says:

    I TOTALLY agree with Sharon!!! The people doing the screening all need to be trained by the same standard and they need to explain the meaning of words so that parents can answer appropriately. If they are not on the same page, interpretation of meaning is skewed and that can cut off a child’s benefits. Parents get beat up enough by schools, doctors, therapists and human services. Then we are expected to raise a challenging child without financial help. I’m almost to the point of saying if that’s the kind of help you have to offer, I don’t want it. If parents are good parents, stop beating them up!

  11. Sandie says:

    What good will that do kids who have FASD, we can’t code it, rocognise it, we don’t teach it, it’s not listed on disability lists, we have no educational guidelines for teaching these children with the disabilities They have, it’s not ADHD, way to many with Autism really have FASD, we experiment with drugs for other issues for them. SSI is not trained to deal with the disabilities they have and to give aid to the families who care for them. NO ONE who has to work with, give services, welfare, judicial, law enforcement, the schools, Drs., on and on are trained in how this affects them and what to do for them!! We don’t want to even call it what it is!!! We give it another name. We have to own it from parents all the way down the line. Thousands are born every year just in the US. What are we going to do with these children??? This is not to disparage those who give their lives, time, money, love and tears to them. You know who you are and God knows who is who and we salute you!!! The rest better get on board and and shape up the care for them. Sandie

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