Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive! promotes early developmental and behavioral screening for kids

The Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Education have launched Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive!  to encourage developmental and behavioral screening for children to support the families and providers who care for them.

Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive! will help families look for and celebrate milestones; promote universal screenings; identify delays as early as possible; and improve the support available to help children succeed in school and thrive alongside their peers.

“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 HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “This screening initiative will help identify warning signs early so that more children get the support they need as soon as possible. Because the early years in a child’s life—when the human brain is forming—represent a critically important window of opportunity, this administration is making significant investments in early childhood education, care, and development.”

“Every family looks forward to celebrating a child’s first steps or first words. Combining the love and knowledge families have of their children with tools, guidance, and tips recommended by experts can make the most of the developmental support children receive,” said Linda Smith, deputy assistant secretary and interdepartmental liaison for early childhood development for children and families.

This initiative encourages early childhood experts – including practitioners in early care and education, primary health care, early intervention, child welfare and mental health – to work together with children and their families. Early screenings check developmental progress and can uncover potential developmental delays. If a child’s screening result shows risk, families and providers will be in a better position to pursue more in-depth evaluation, which is the first step toward getting help for a child who might need it.

For example, today's autism data release from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows most children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are diagnosed after age four, even though ASD can be diagnosed as early as age two.  Early identification that leads to early access to services is the most powerful tool available right now to make a difference in the lives of children.

Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive! resources include:

  • A list of research-based developmental screening tools appropriate for use across a wide range of settings;
  • Guides on how to use the screeners for a variety of audiences, from early learning teachers to doctors, social workers, and families;
  • Toolkits with resources and tip sheets;
  • Guidance on finding help at the local level; and
  • A screening passport that allows families to track a child’s screening history and results.

“Early screening can lead to better access to services and supports, which can enhance children’s learning and development, minimize developmental delays, and result in more positive outcomes in school and life,” said Michael Yudin, acting assistant secretary for the U.S. Education Department’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.

The federal partners contributing to this program include: HHS’ Administration for Children and Families, Administration for Community Living, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Medicaid and Medicare, Health Resources and Services Administration, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, as well as the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at the Department of Education.

Visit Watch Me Thrive to get more information and resources, including the screening passport.

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