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Wyoming Act Early|Wyoming Institute for Disabilities

Frequently asked questions

The following information was provided by the CDC's "Learn the Signs. Act Early." 

What are the top three things I should be concerned about as my child develops?

As your child is developing, it is important to monitor how he or she plays, learns, speaks and acts.  If your child is having trouble communicating needs, such as letting someone know when they’re hungry or hurt; if they seem usually sad or disconnected from those around them, or if they don’t move around like other children their age, you should to talk to a professional about your child’s development. 

CDC offers free checklists that make it easy for all parents to track their child’s development. Parents can fill out these checklists and take them to their child’s doctor and talk about them at the next visit.  These checklists also include things to watch for that might mean a potential developmental delay.

What are the next steps if I do see any of these concerns?

If you have concerns about your child’s development, it is important to act on those concerns.  Talk to your child’s primary care provider and also contact your local early intervention program for an evaluation for services. If possible, talk with your child’s child care provider or preschool teacher to see if they have similar concerns. 

The Centers for Disease Control website has milestone checklists you can use to monitor your child’s development at different ages.  Parents can take that checklist when they talk with the doctor or child care provider. Remember that all children develop at their own pace, but if you’re concerned, it is important to act on that concern.

What is one key piece of advice you would give parents in this situation?

There are people who can help support your child’s development. For example, if your child has delayed speech or is having difficulty walking, therapists trained to work with children can work with you to support your child’s development.  Most importantly, know that you’re not alone. Reach out to other parents who may have children with similar issues.  Organizations like Wyoming Family to Family Health Information Center can help connect families. There are also national organizations that can help support families, like Autism Speaks.  

What role do childcare providers and preschool teachers have in monitoring children’s development?

Childcare providers and preschool teachers have an important role in talking with parents about their child’s development. These providers spend their day working with, playing with, and watching children, and are already familiar with many milestones — such as pointing at objects, smiling, and playing with others — that mark a child’s development. The Centers for Disease Control offers free milestone checklists and booklets for child care providers and preschool teachers that make it easy to track developmental milestones and talk about them with parents.

How can I track my child’s development?

The Centers for Disease Control offers free milestone checklists for ages 2 months to 5 years. You can go to their website, print a copy of the checklist for the age of your child, and check off the things that he or she does. If you’re not sure, play with your child and watch what he or she does over a few days.

Children develop at their own pace, and it’s not unusual for a child to reach some developmental milestones earlier or later than others. But if you’re concerned, take the checklist that you filled out to your child’s primary care provider and talk about it. Also, contact your local developmental preschool, or if your child is older than 3, go to your local school and ask for an assessment.

Remember, if you have a concern, don’t wait. It’s better to act early to get your child the help he or she might need.

In some areas there are long waiting lists for getting a diagnosis. What should parents do then?

Unfortunately, families may have to wait many weeks or sometimes months before they are able to get an appointment to see a specialist or start intervention services for their child’s developmental delay. This can be a frustrating time for parents who want answers and help now.

If you find yourself in this situation, know that there are some simple things you can do today and every day to help your child’s development.

Make the most of playtime. Interact with your child as much as possible. Read books, sing songs, play with toys, make crafts, do household chores, and play outside together. Talk to your child. Label items with a its name on a sticker, point out interesting things, tell stories, comment about what you see and how you feel, and explain how things work and why things happen. Your child may not always seem to be listening, but he or she may be hearing more than you think.

Find Support. Reach out. You are not alone. To find support and information for your family, visit the Wyoming Family to Family Health Information Center

But remember, your child does not need to have a diagnosis to get early intervention services.

Autism Questions

What is autism?

Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are neurodevelopmental disabilities associated with significant social, communication and behavioral challenges.  People with ASDs handle information in their brain differently than other people.

ASDs are "spectrum disorders."  That means ASDs affect each person in different ways, and can range from very mild to severe.  People with ASDs share some similar symptoms, such as problems with social interaction.  But there are differences in when the symptoms start, how severe they are, and the exact nature of the symptoms.

What are autism signs and symptoms?

ASDs begin before the age of 3 and last throughout a person's life, although symptoms may improve over time. Some children with an ASD show hints of future problems within the first few months of life. In others, symptoms might not show up until 24 months or later. Some children with an ASD seem to develop normally until around 18 to 24 months of age and then they stop gaining new skills, or they lose the skills they once had.

A person with an ASD might:

  • Not respond to their name by 12 months
  • Not point at objects to show interest (point at an airplane flying over) by 14 months
  • Not play "pretend" games (pretend to "feed" a doll) by 18 months
  • Avoid eye contact and want to be alone
  • Have trouble understanding other people's feelings or talking about their own feelings
  • Have delayed speech and language skills
  • Repeat words or phrases over and over (echolalia)
  • Give unrelated answers to questions
  • Get upset by minor changes
  • Have obsessive interests
  • Flap their hands, rock their body, or spin in circles
  • Have unusual reactions to the way things sound, smell, taste, look, or feel

When can autism be diagnosed?

Doctors look at the child’s behavior and development to make a diagnosis. 

ASDs can sometimes be detected at 18 months or younger.  By age 2, a diagnosis by an experienced professional can be considered very reliable. However, many children do not receive a diagnosis until much older, thus delaying much needed intervention.

What happens then?

There is currently no cure for ASDs.  However, research shows that early intervention treatment services can greatly improve a child’s development. Early intervention services help children from birth to 3 years old (36 months) learn important skills. Services can include therapy to help the child talk, walk, and interact with others.  Therefore, it is important to talk to your child’s doctor as soon as possible if you think your child has an ASD or other developmental problem.

Even if your child has not been diagnosed with an ASD, he or she may be eligible for early intervention treatment services. These services are provided through an early intervention system in your state. Through this system, you can ask for an evaluation.

In addition, treatment for particular symptoms, such as speech therapy for language delays, often does not need to wait for a formal ASD diagnosis.

What should parents do if they are concerned their child might have autism?

If you think your child might have an ASD or you think there could be a problem with the way your child plays, learns, speaks, or acts, contact your child’s doctor, and share your concerns.  If you or the doctor is still concerned, ask the doctor for a referral to a specialist who can do a more in-depth evaluation of your child.  Specialists who can do a more in-depth evaluation and make a diagnosis include:

  • Developmental Pediatricians (doctors who have special training in child development and children with special needs)
  • Child Neurologists (doctors who work on the brain, spine, and nerves)
  • Child Psychologists or Psychiatrists (doctors who know about the human mind)

At the same time, call your state’s public early childhood system to request a free evaluation to find out if your child qualifies for intervention services. This is sometimes called a Child Find evaluation.  You do not need to wait for a doctor’s referral or a medical diagnosis to make his call. 

Where to call for a free evaluation from the state depends on your child’s age:

  • If your child is not yet 3 years old, contact your local child developmental center.
  • You can find the right contact information for your state by calling the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY) at 1-800-695-0285.  Or visit the NICHCY website.  Once you find your state on this webpage, look for the heading "Programs for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities: Ages Birth through 3". 
  • If your child is 3 years old or older, contact your local public school system. Even if your child is not yet old enough for kindergarten or enrolled in a public school, call your local elementary school or board of education and ask to speak with someone who can help you have your child evaluated. 
  • If you’re not sure who to contact, call the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities at 1-800-695-0285 or visit the NICHCY website.  Once you find your state on this webpage, look for the heading "Programs for Children with Disabilities: Ages 3 through 5".
  • Wyoming Family to Family Health Information Center can help you locate resources, provide health information, and connect to peers for support.

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