Did you know that 1 in 6 children aged 3-17 years has a developmental disability and that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in 36 children are diagnosed with autism? However, many children with a developmental disability are not identified until after they start school. Many parents of children diagnosed with autism have concerns about development before their child’s first birthday.

Developmental monitoring is tracking when or whether a child reaches the milestones that are expected by his or her age. While developmental screening at well-child visits and in early childcare settings is important, it only occurs at certain time points. Developmental monitoring is an active on-going process of watching a child grow and encouraging conversations between parents and providers about a child’s skills and abilities. It is important that you track your child’s developmental milestones using milestone trackers and share results and concerns with your child’s health and education providers. Developmental monitoring supports and complements (but does not replace) developmental screening. When monitoring and screening are done together, children are identified much earlier, and can access much needed services and supports. Research shows that starting services early gives a child the best chance to learn and grow.

The CDC’s “Learn the Signs. Act Early” (LTSAE) Program and Act Early DC aim to improve early identification of developmental delays and disabilities, including autism, by increasing family-engaged developmental monitoring. LTSAE and Act Early DC have free parent-friendly milestone checklists and other resources for children 2 months to 5 years of age. Learn more and access these FREE resources by visiting www.CDC.gov/ActEarly and www.ActEarlyDC.org.

April is Autism Awareness and Acceptance Month. To learn more about autism and to access parent resources, please visit www.DCAutismParents.org and www.ChildrensNational.org/DC-AC.