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Federal Initiative Aims at Early Screening for Developmental Delays

Parents, medical professionals, and early-childhood caregivers are being enlisted in a new initiative designed to help identify developmental delays in children as early as possible. 

Birth to Five: Watch Me Thrive! is a set of resources that include developmental screening tools; 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.

"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 in a statement during the program's roll-out last week. "This screening initiative will help identify warning signs early so that more children get the support they need as soon as possible."

Federal partners in the effort include the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Education, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Medicaid and Medicare, and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

The initiative was launched the same day that a report from the Centers for Disease Control said that the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder has risen sharply since the agency first started monitoring the disorder in 2000. Many children are still be diagnosed after age 4, though screening tools exist to identify autism spectrum disorder as early as age 2.

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