Monday 31 October 2011

Empowering parents to look for early warning signs

Not part 2 of the IEP post (still working on that) – instead a mention of something I’ve just come across.  Now I’m not trying to do a PR job for the state of Utah but I do think what they’ve introduced to help parents be alert for early potential signs of developmental delay is rather fabulous. 

Empowering parents – you can’t beat that J

In Utah, one in every nine children has a special health care need, chronic health condition, or disability. 

Wow – not only wow to the high numbers, but wow to the fact that they’ve actually bothered to count the numbers.  (UK government please take note!)  

In an effort to educate parents about childhood development, including early warning signs of autism and other developmental disabilities, the Utah Department of Health has launched the Learn the Signs. Act Early (LTSAE) campaign.

In addition to a new website, at that contains educational tools for parents, the state's campaign aims to provide developmental screening for every child at 18 and 24 months of age.

Screening at 18 and 24 months – yes please!  In the UK (so the NHS Choices web site tells me) we have two health and baby/toddler development reviews done by Health Visitors at 12 months and 24 months.  I would be interested to hear from any UK Mums whose babies have recently had one of these checks to find out what kind of questions are asked about the child’s developmental progress.  Warning signs will only be discovered if the Health Visitor asks the right questions and is aware of the subtle presentation of some of the symptoms of developmental delay – the Utah programme notes that conditions such as hearing and vision impairments, autism, and intellectual disability, can be identified early by watching for children to reach milestones like talking, walking, pointing, and responding when parents call their name.

My experience of raising concerns with my Health Visitor was that the concerns were quickly dismissed.  I got the impression that I was viewed as an over-anxious parent.  For sure, if I had known then what I know now about child development, our diagnostic journey would have been quite different.

“The site outlines all the milestones a child should achieve by each birthday,” said Al Romeo, RN, LTSAE program coordinator. “The site also tells parents what to do and where to go for help right away if they’re concerned about the way their child plays, learns, speaks, or acts.” 

Developmental milestones are available here:

He said the campaign is key, “because parents require knowledge about developmental milestones and early signs of autism for them to be good advocates for their children.”

Primary care providers across the state have been trained to incorporate developmental and autism screening in well-child care for all their patients.  The programme began with a baseline telephone survey in September and will end with a follow-up survey in the summer of 2012. 

The programme is being funded in Utah and 4 other states by the US Centre for Disease Control, which will incorporate the information gathered from the four launch areas before taking the campaign to other states.

Looking forward to the results…..hopefully other countries will also be able to learn from this programme.

Now back to what I should really be doing - practicing my presentation for the NAS conference on autism education next week.  Gulp.  My knees are knocking already...........


  1. Very interesting!
    As for the knees knocking...... drugs Zoe, drugs!! (legal ones of course) :D

  2. Yes will be interesting to see how it progresses too! Zoe you'll be great no need to be shaking!! :-)

  3. Thanks for your votes of confidence ladies :) I think I just need to get over myself and get on with it....!