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Why Early ID?

About one in six children is affected by one or more developmental disabilities.1 The incidence rate for autism spectrum disorder is now as high as 1 in 50 children.2 This represents a 300% percent increase in the past 10 years. Autism is the fastest growing developmental disorder in the U.S.

Still, only 2.5% of children under age three are being served through the federally-funded Early Intervention program, which is designed to mitigate developmental delays and disorders.3

With proper intervention, a child can overcome a wide range of developmental, behavioral, and learning problems. Intensive, well-designed and timely intervention can improve the prospects—and the quality of life—for many children who are considered at risk for cognitive, social, or emotional impairment. In some cases, effective intervention can improve conditions once thought to be virtually untreatable, such as autism. Well-implemented programs can brighten a child’s future and the impact a developmental disorder has on the family. It can lead a child to greater independence, enable that child to be included in his/her community, and offer him/her a more productive and fulfilling life.

Unfortunately, many physicians fail to identify a developmental delay at an age when the child should be receiving early intervention services. Birth to three is a critical time in a child’s development, so a delayed diagnosis may compromise his/her chances for success.

The high (and growing) incidence of developmental disabilities demands greater awareness and improved early identification. Too few physicians refer young children to early intervention, primarily, because (1) physicians may not know what critical signs to look for in a child during each stage; (2) physicians may not be familiar with early intervention; (3) insurance companies allow physicians limited time for office visits; and (4) some pediatricians believe a child’s severe developmental disability will not be affected by early intervention, while others would rather not alarm the parents unnecessarily in case the child is able to overcome the developmental delay.

1. Boyle CA et al (2011). Trends in the Prevalence of Developmental Disabilities in US Children, 1997–2008. Pediatrics. 10.1542/peds.2010-2989

2. Blumberg SJ et al (2013). Changes in Prevalence of Parent-reported Autism Spectrum Disorder in School-aged U.S. Children: 2007 to 2011–2012. National Health Statistics Reports. Number 65, March 20, 2013. Maternal and Child Health Bureau.

3. 31st Annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 2009. Section 664(d) of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

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Last update: 01/06/12
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