The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” program aims to improve early identification of children with autism and other developmental disabilities so children and families can get the services and support they need as early as possible. The program is made up of three components:
- Health education campaign promotes awareness of
- healthy developmental milestones in early childhood
- the importance of tracking each child’s development
- the importance of acting early if there are concerns
- Act Early Initiative works with state, territorial, and national partners to improve early childhood systems by
- enhancing collaborative efforts to improve screening and referral to early intervention services
- supporting the work of Act Early Ambassadors to promote “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” messages and tools and improve early identification efforts in their state
- Research and evaluation improves campaign materials and implementation activities and increases our understanding of the factors that influence early identification and referral.
This project aims to improve systems of support for children birth to five in the state of Georgia by developing and coordinating a Learn the Signs. Act Early. (LTSAE) Ambassador-led state team (i.e. the Act Early GA Team).
This effort is a collaboration between the GA Department of Early Care and Learning's Bridget Ratajczak, the current GA Act Early Ambassador, and the Center for Leadership in Disability's Brian Barger. Bridget and Brian will work with multiple state partners including the GA Department of Public Health, Division of Family and Child Services, the GA Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Parent to Parent of GA, the Georgia Advocacy Office, and others to understand the effects of COVID-19 on:
- Parent-engaged developmental monitoring
- Developmental and autism screening
- Intervention referrals
- Receipt of early intervention services for children birth to 5, across early childhood systems
During these meetings we will develop, implement, and evaluate a plan to address the identified barriers and realize the identified opportunities related to parent-engaged developmental monitoring and other early identification steps, as well as develop strategies to improve and measure resiliency of children birth to age 5 and their families.
Three members of the Center for Leadership in Disability team will facilitate the needs assessment and evaluation alongside the current Act Early Ambassador. The CLD brings to the table a highly skilled evaluation and research team, relationships with many of the stakeholders, as well as relationships with numerous state disability organizations, including GA-DPH. Dr. Brian Barger will be the Primary Evaluator who has extensive experience conducting mixed methods evaluation and research, including 7 years of experience working with CDC Act Early team members and Ambassadors (Georgia, Indiana and Wisconsin) on parent-engaged developmental monitoring projects.
Dr. Barger is the CLD’s Director of Research and Evaluation and his primary line of research focuses on early identification of developmental and behavioral conditions via monitoring, screening and assessment. Dr. Barger is joined by the CLD’s Ashley Salmon (MPH) and Gereen Francis (BCBA). Ms. Salmon is a trained biostatistician with strong skills in data visualization and experience communicating mixed methods research and evaluation reports. Ms. Francis is a Behavior Specialist with extensive experience working with families with autism. Critically, Ms. Francis is the team lead for the Autism Plan for Georgia and has strong working relationships with the GA-DPH and other state agencies active on the early identification front.
The CLD is conducting a study to examine the implementation of Learn the Signs Act Early (LTSAE) and Talk With Me Baby (TWMB) in home visiting sessions. Programs that offer home visiting programs in counties throughout Georgia are participating to help us gauge the effectiveness of these programs. After agreeing to participate in the study, CLD researchers accompany home visiting sessions with the Home Visitors to in-person or virtual sessions with caregivers of children under 3. After baseline data is collected during a home visiting session, Home Visitors participate in a 3-hour training that corresponds to one of the programs, LTSAE or TWMB. Researchers collect data during a home visiting session after the training, to assess if changes occurred. Data collected include parent-child interactions and discussion and identification of developmental milestones.
The Latino Community of Practice (LCPR) initiative at the Center for Leadership in Disability (CLD) has partnered with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and its National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities to obtain Learn The Signs and Act Early (LTSAE) social marketing materials in Spanish!
Since early 2016, the partnership has allowed CLD-LCPR bilingual staff and interns to distribute LTSAE social marketing materials in an effort to inform and educate Spanish-speaking families on developmental milestones.
We created a bilingual, English and Spanish, community- and family-education campaign for and with area clinics, schools, nonprofits, The General Consulate of Mexico in Atlanta, and Spanish-speaking radio stations.