By Katherine A. Beckmann, PhD, MPH, Senior Policy Advisor for Early Childhood Health and Development
My 13-month-old son is already the embodiment of what I hope for most as a parent; William is happiness and light personified. I am constantly amazed at how quickly he changes in appearance and ability. I know his father and I will support him as he endeavors to reach milestones throughout his young life and into adulthood. And I know we will celebrate these moments within the unique context that is William.
Given that April is Autism Awareness and Acceptance Month, it is especially important to remember that diversity among our nation’s children is an important part of what makes society strong. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a lifelong developmental disability characterized by social communication and interaction challenges. Individuals with ASD might repeat specific patterns of behavior, interests or activities. The severity of symptoms and manner in which these impact the lives of children with ASD vary greatly. Learning, thinking and problem-solving abilities of people with ASD can range from gifted to severely challenged. Initial signs and symptoms are generally apparent early on in child development; however, some might not be recognized as symptoms of ASD until a child has difficulty meeting social, educational, occupational or other important life stage demands.
The CDC estimates that about one in 68 children were identified with ASD in 2010. Reported in all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups, ASD is almost five times more common among boys than among girls. Almost half of children identified with ASD had average to above average intellectual ability. On the whole, children identified with ASD were not diagnosed until after age four, even though children can be reliably diagnosed as early as age two. Research shows that parents of children with ASD have developmental concerns even before their child's first birthday. While ASD cannot be “cured,” early intervention can help dramatically.
For these reasons and others, the Departments of Health and Human Services and Education have partnered to launch Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive!, a coordinated effort to encourage developmental and behavioral screening and support for children, families and the providers who care for them. Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive! seeks to:
Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive! supports the implementation of these core missions by releasing:
Visit these websites for more information and a complete set of resources: