A group of disabilities called autism spectrum disorders have been gaining significant attention in the media over the
last few years.
There is good reason for this attention - the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates as many as one in
150 children in the United States have an autism spectrum disorder, causing significant social, behavioral and
communication challenges. However, the CDC also estimates that 17 percent of children in the United States have a
developmental disability, a category of impairments to development that can happen before, after or during birth and
include such diagnoses as autism, intellectual disability, cerebral palsy or vision, speech or hearing impairments.
The prevalence of developmental disabilities is matched with the sad fact that less than half of children who
experience developmental disabilities or delays do not receive help until after they are in school, while research
indicates that the greatest opportunities for intervention occur before children are 5 years old.
In response, the CDC stresses the need for developmental screenings for young children. The steps for parents are
Become familiar with the developmental milestones for children. These milestones are the general progress children
should make in areas such as learning to move and walk, talking and interacting with their environment and other
people. While all children develop at a different pace, a significant delay in developing a skill or skills can
indicate a more serious problem.
Participate in developmental screenings. Many pediatricians' offices offer a developmental screening as a part of
well-child visits. You can also ask your child-care provider, local Child Find or early intervention office (see
below for contact information).
Ensure your child receives proper nutrition, exercise and rest as well as a safe and loving environment with plenty
of stimulation. These are essential factors in a young child's development.
nature and severity of the delay or disability.
Families may be referred to professional therapists or medical specialists for techniques to enhance their child's
development. In some cases, assistive devices may be appropriate or the intensive teaching of skills through behavioral
intervention may be recommended. Payment for many services may be available through insurance or other private and
The most important thing to know is that the earlier problems are identified, the sooner children can get help to reach
their fullest potential.
For information about developmental screenings, contact your pediatrician or your local Early Intervention Colorado
Office (for children ages 0-3) or Child Find (children ages 3 and older). In La Plata, Archuleta and San Juan counties,contact San Juan Kids (0-3) at 385-3498 or San Juan BOCES (3 and older) at 247-3261. In Dolores and Montezuma Counties,contact Southwest Kids (0-3) at 565-8389 or Southwest BOCES (3 and up) at 565-8411.
More resources are available for San Juan Kids and Southwest Kids on the Community Connections Web site at
www.cci-colorado.org, or check the CDC Web site at "http://www.cdc.gov/actearly">www.cdc.gov/actearly.
Tara Kiene, is the director of case management with Community Connections, Inc.