Disability Awareness Program

Gaby L. Johnson

Nova Southeastern University

HSDD 6000

Adela Beckerman-Fontana

January 17, 2023

Early Childhood Developmental Disability Awareness Program


Identification/Support Needed for Program

Early childhood spans the time from prenatal development to age eight. Early infancy is a period of growth and development because the experiences that occur during this time can have lifelong effects. For every child, early childhood is crucial for laying the groundwork for lifelong learning and participation. There are between 93 and 150 million children with disabilities worldwide and 34% have learning challenges, 20% have speech or language impairments, 9% have autism, 6% have developmental delays, 14% have health issues and other physical disabilities.

The identification of children who have or are at risk for developmental and behavioral delays is an essential first step toward the goal of ensuring that all children could achieve their optimal level of physical, mental, and socioemotional health and well-being. This goal can be accomplished by identifying young children who have or are at risk for having these delays. The term "early identification" refers to a process that incorporates both routine observation and screening at various points in a child's development.

The purpose of the “Early Signs” program proposal is to establish an Early Childhood Developmental Disability Awareness Program in Sacramento, California for children who are not being screened or evaluated and has missed opportunities to address developmental and behavioral issues and obtain early intervention treatments. Approximately 1in 4 of children ages 0 to 6 are at risk for developmental and behavior delays. As a result, children in California are not routinely screened with a validated screening tool, as recommended by the AAP (Bethell, Christina D. et al., 2011; Macrides, Paula & Susan Ryherd., 2011). This proposed program will provide children with periodic developmental screenings and intervention referral services before entering kindergarten. Education providers, parents, and family advocates will be provided training on child development, screening, and referral. In addition, providers, family advocates and parents will understand and become knowledgeable how to properly monitor a child’s development and identify concerns. The program will serve children from infancy to10 years and will be implemented countywide.

Current Local Programs Available

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children be tested three times before they turn three, but only 26% of children in California get these tests. Parents, educators, and members of the community all benefit from the timely diagnosis of children with developmental delays and other special needs. Developmental screening can be used to identify areas of concern as well as to engage parents. The Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ) is promoted as the county's key screening tool. It is designed to successfully involve parents by enhancing their awareness about the types of activities, they may undertake at home to encourage healthy child development. Providers are taught to determine ASQ scores as well as to use the screening process to improve parent observation abilities. This is a vital component that allows parents to continuously support their children's development while also knowing when to seek outside assistance (ww.harderco.com., 2018).

California has a chance to capitalize on existing HMG (Help Me Grow) infrastructure to meet the state's early childhood system reform goals. Help Me Grow's role in California's Early Identification and Intervention System provide examples of innovative local implementation efforts, as well as ideas for creating fair and long-term developmental assistance for all California children (https://first5center.org).

HMG (Help Me Grow) is already a valuable component of local early identification and intervention (EII) systems in California, and the state should consider leveraging or increasing it, as well as learning from it. Since 2005, about half of the counties in California have adapted and implemented the HMG model. The experiences of county HMG implementation can help the state enhance the EII system so that every California child receives timely developmental screening and children with a concern are coupled with appropriate interventions (https://first5center.org).

Feasibility of the Program

The “Early Signs” program is to improve early identification and intervention awareness amongst education providers, parents, and family advocates. Consistency is essential for effective communication, planning, and tracking ensuring children are being screened in a timely manner.


Bethell, Christina D. et al. (2011). A National and State Profile of Leading Health Problems and Health Care Quality for US Children: Key Insurance Disparities and Across-State Variations. The Journal of Pediatrics.


(ww.harderco.com., 2018)

Macrides, Paula & Susan Ryherd. (2011). Screening for Developmental Delay. American Academy of Family Physicians