Autism Awareness and Acceptance in Early Childhood Education

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) affects about 1 in 68 children in the U.S. (CDC, 2014), with more children being identified than ever before. The early childhood community has a unique opportunity to touch the lives of these children and their families in ways that can make a real difference.

Read President Obama's Proclamation for World Autism Awareness Day 2014.

Join the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday, April 22, at 1:00 p.m. for Autism Spectrum Disorder: From Numbers to Know-How, a live webcast featuring presentations on causes, surveillance, early identification and screening for ASD.

Incorporate these tips and concepts into everyday routines in the classroom or in the home.

Learn more about ASD with A Parent's Guide to Autism Spectrum Disorder.

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?

ASD is a developmental disability that can affect social communication and behavioral development. ASD is a spectrum disorder which means that each child is affected differently and has unique strengths, challenges, and needs. ASD begins before the age of 3 and lasts throughout a person's life, although symptoms may improve over time. Early identification of ASD is important so children and families can attain the services and support they need as soon as possible. With awareness, acceptance, and the appropriate supports, children with ASD can reach their incredible potential. To learn more, watch this video and read 10 facts about ASD (en Español).

For more information about the early signs of ASD, check out this video developed by the Center on Autism on Related Disorders at the Kennedy Krieger Institute.

What is the Role of Early Care and Education Providers?

While diagnosing and providing specific interventions for young children with ASD is the role of specialists, early childhood providers can play an active role in supporting children with autism and other developmental disabilities. By using developmentally appropriate practices, tracking developmental milestones, communicating with parents, and being aware of community-based resources, early care and education providers can make important contributions to the lives of young children with ASD and their families.

ACF is dedicated to providing early education providers with the information they need to better understand ASD and support the children in their care. Check out these simple tips early childhood providers can include in everyday routines.

What Services are Available to Young Children with ASD under IDEA?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law that requires that all children suspected of having a disability be evaluated without cost to families to determine if they have a disability and are eligible for services under IDEA. For children under 3 years of age, these services are provided through a State’s IDEA Part C early intervention system. For children older than 3, IDEA Part B services are available through the public school system.

The National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities provides information and resources about IDEA. For information on early intervention services in your state, please visit the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center.

Other Helpful Resources for Early Childhood ProvidersBaby standing with help.

Learn More about ASD

These sites offer additional information and resources on ASD and development, for families, early childhood providers, teachers, policy makers, and medical professionals.

Learn More about Child Development

Children learn how to talk, walk, and play in the first years of life. Being aware of children's developmental milestones can help you detect if a child is meeting milestones on time or needs extra support. Learn the Signs. Act Early.