Specific Disability Populations and Children At-Risk
Autism Spectrum Disorders
Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) is a developmental disorder which includes individuals that have substantial differences in their social communication and behaviors. The diagnostic criteria, updated in 2013, by the American Psychiatric Association in the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual defines the diagnostic criteria for ASD as "a child must have persistent deficits in each of three areas of social communication and interaction plus at least two of four types of restricted, repetitive behaviors".
Bringing the Early Signs of Autism Spectrum Disorders Into Focus
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- CDC's Page on ASD provides information on early detection, screening and diagnosis of ASD, , and an Autism Data Visualization Tool.
- Learn the Signs. Act Early. supports earlier detection of developmental delays, including ASD, and provides Fact Sheets, videos, materials and links to developmental milestones for parents and professionals.
- Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network provides information on the prevalence of ASD in the United States, including the following reports:
- Prevalence and Characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorder Among Children Aged 8 Years — Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, 11 Sites, United States, 2020: The findings include new patterns in prevalence by race/ethnicity and a novel analysis showing dramatic impacts of COVID-19 on early evaluation and identification of autism. The latest prevalence estimate of 1 in 36 in 8-year-old children is higher than the previous estimate published in December 2021 of 1 in 44 8-year-old children.
- Early Identification of Autism Spectrum Disorder Among Children Aged 4 Years — Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, 11 Sites, United States, 2020: This report examines the time of identification. While there have been improvements in early autism identification over time, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted progress. These disruptions in the timely evaluation of children and delays in connecting children to the services and support they need could have long-lasting effects.
- Memorandum of Understanding between the State Agency under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) and the State Autism Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Program (State ADDM)
- Community Report on Autism 2023 provides a snapshot of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) among 4-year-old and 8-year-old Children in Multiple Communities across the United States in 2023. The following are available:
- Community Report on Autism 2023: Full Report
- Autism Among 4-year-old and 8-year-old Children: An Easy-Read Summary
- Spotlight On Progress in Early Identification Disrupted during the COVID-19 Pandemic among 4-year-old Children
- Spotlight On A New Pattern in Racial and Ethnic Differences Emerges in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Identification among 8-year-old Children
Evidence-Based Practcies on Autism
The Autism Focused Intervention Resources and Modules (AFIRM)
The Autism Focused Intervention Resources and Modules (AFIRM) are available for free and are designed to help practitioners and families learn step-by-step, the process for planning, using, and monitoring evidence-based practices with autistic children and youth ages birth–22.
Developed in conjunction with the ECTA Center, these AFIRM for Toddlers modules are specifically designed for early interventionist working with families and early care providers. An introductory video provides a brief introduction to the set of modules:
- Behavior Supports (BEH) for Toddlers may be appropriate to use resources and supports when toddler behaviors interfere with their engagement with caregivers, learning through play, participating in daily routines, or keeping themselves and others safe.
- Naturalistic Intervention (NI) for Toddlers in the Childcare Setting is an evidence-based practice (EBP) consisting of a collection of techniques and strategies that are embedded in typical activities and/or routines in which the toddler participates to naturally promote, support, and encourage target skills/behaviors.
- Parent Implemented-Intervention (PII) is an evidence-based practice that involves coaching parents or family members to deliver an intervention to their toddler within daily routines that promotes the toddler's target skills and behaviors.
- Prompting Procedures (PP) for Toddlers are verbal, gestural, and/or physical assistance given to learners to help them in acquiring or engaging in a targeted behavior or skill.Adults generally give prompts before or as a toddler attempts to use a skill.
- Reinforcement (R) for Toddlers is when caregivers promote the toddler's target skills/behaviors by providing an arranged consequence that occurs immediately after the toddler displays the target skill/behavior. It usually focuses on increasing the target skill or behavior. In such cases, the consequences should be natural and developmentally appropriate for toddlers (for example, favorite object, sensory play, preferred food).
- Visual Supports (VS) for Toddlers are a set of evidence-based practices (EBPs) that use images, pictures or objects that cue the toddler to engage in a desired skill or behavior. They provide the toddler with meaningful information about an activity, routine, behavioral expectation, or skill.
Supplemental materials and resources associated with the modules are also available for download, including materials designed for use by caretakers, some of which have been translated or adapted into a number of languages:
- COVID-19 Toolkit: Supporting Individuals with Autism through Uncertain Times highlights of seven support strategies for times of uncertainty and stress to meet the needs of individuals with autism.
See also: Learn with AFIRM
With the increased the increased prevalence of autism, there has been an intensified demand for effective educational and therapeutic services. A 2020 update to the 2014 report, Evidence-based Practices for Children and Adults with ASD, describes a set of practices that provide clear evidence of positive effects on children and youth with autism.
Five new practices and several reconceptualizations/recategorizations of practices that positively impact children and youth with autism are identified in the report. Also, for the first time, new demographic data related to the study participants' race, ethnicity and nationality are highlighted.
Interdisciplinary Technical Assistance Center (ITAC) on Autism and Developmental Disabilities (AUCD)
The purpose of the Interdisciplinary Technical Assistance Center (ITAC) on Autism and Developmental Disabilities at AUCD is to improve the health of infants, children, and adolescents who have, or are at risk for developing, ASDs and other developmental disabilities. The Center accomplishes this by providing technical assistance to interdisciplinary training programs (i.e., the LENDs and Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics (DBP) programs) to better train professionals to utilize valid and reliable screening tools to diagnose or rule out and provide evidence-based interventions for children with ASD and other developmental disabilities.
IRIS: Autism Spectrum Disorder Modules
This module from the IRIS Center, provides information on the early signs of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), as well as an overview of the difference between a medical diagnosis and an educational determination of ASD.
The Children's Health Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-310), Title I, Section 104, mandated the establishment of an Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) to coordinate autism research and other efforts. The National Institute of Mental Health at the National Institutes of Health has been designated the lead for this activity. Members of IACC include agencies across departments and parents or legal guardians of individuals with autism or other pervasive developmental disorders.
National Clearinghouse on Autism Evidence and Practices (NCAEP)
NCAEP has published Evidence-Based Practices for Children, Youth, and Young Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (2020), a systematic review of the current intervention literature that targets individuals with autism. NCAEP's review is a continuation of the evidence review that was completed by the National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders (NPDC) which included research published as of 2011. The current review extends the literature review up until 2017 and updates the review published by Wong, et al in 2015. NCAEP identified five new evidence-based practices (EBPs) in this review, bringing the total number of evidence-based practices to 28. The review also classified a number of evidence-based practices as Manualized Interventions Meeting Criteria (MIMC)and provided a chart indicating which evidence-based practices the MIMCs were included.
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
NIMH's Topical page on ASD on includes Signs and Symptoms of ASD, Causes and Risk Factors, Diagnosing ASD, and Treatments and Therapies, along with other topics.
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)
The Identify the Signs campaign provides materials to support earlier identification of speech/language, hearing loss and communication disorders. These materials include:
- Signs of Speech-Language Disorders
- Communicating with Baby: Tips and Milestones From Birth to Age Five: This article and companion toolkit for parents shares ways to support communication development based on the developmental age of the child.
Deaf-Blindness/Combined Vision and Hearing Loss
The National Center on Deaf-Blindness (NCDB)
The National Center on Deaf-Blindness (NCDB) is a technical assistance center funded by the US Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs. NCDB works to improve the quality of life for children who are Deaf-Blind and their families. National initiatives include:
- Early Identification and Intervention
- National Child Count of children and youth birth to age 22 with Deaf-Blindness.
- The Sooner the Better: A Framework for Training EI Practitioners on Deaf-Blindness includes a section on Recognizing and Understanding Sensory Loss (for example, an overview of Deaf-Blindness, the impact on development, incidental learning, prematurity, ongoing medical issues and multiple disabilities, and risk factors for sensory loss), along with other training topics relevant to improving outcomes for infants and toddlers with deaf-blindness and their families.
- Teaching Children Who Are Deafblind: Professional Development for Educators includes modules are designed for practitioners who want to improve their knowledge of deafblindness and gain practical information they can put to use right away in the home or classroom.
Deaf/Hard of Hearing
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)
Implementation Tip Sheet: Promoting Early Hearing Detection and Intervention is written for primary pediatric health care providers. It provides timelines for the 1, 3, 6 benchmarks of the EHDI program with checklists and screening algorithms for the birth to 6-month period to ensure that screening, surveillance, referral, and intervention occurs at appropriate times. The tip sheet includes recommendations, resources for pediatric practices, links to NCHAM's list of state EHDI Coordinators, and resources for families.
Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)
HRSA administers the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Program and provides grants to states, territories, families, and providers In order to develop coordinated systems of care. The goal is early identification of newborns, infants and young children who are deaf or hard of hearing in order to get needed services.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities
- Hearing Loss in Children
- Screening and Diagnosis of Hearing Loss
- Hearing Loss and Screening: Recommendations and Guidelines
- Types of Hearing Loss
- Free Materials to Support Families
Office of Special Education Programs and Civil Rights Division of Department of Justice
- Dear Colleague Letter on Meeting the Communication Needs of Students with Hearing, Vision, or Speech Disabilities (2014)
- Meeting the Communication Needs of Students with Hearing, Vision, or Speech Disabilities
- Frequently Asked Questions on Effective Communication for Students with Hearing, Vision, or Speech Disabilities in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools
National Center for Hearing Assessment and Management (NCHAM)
NCHAM provides extensive resources for families of young children who are deaf or hard of hearing and for those who provide their services. Their website also includes a table of EHDI Program Guidelines and Websites by State.
- Journal of Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (JEHDI): This bi-annual peer-reviewed online journal provides free access to articles on evidence-based practice, standards of care, and current research related to all aspects of Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI), for example, Progress in Documented Early Identification and Intervention for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Infants: CDC's Hearing Screening and Follow-up Survey, United States, 2006-2016.
- The Joint Committee on Infant Hearing (JCIH) published Year 2019 Position Statement: Principles and Guidelines for Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Programs. This position statement builds upon previous publications from JCIH and provides an update on best practices on screening, identification, and audiological, medical and educational management of infants and young children and their families.
- Aspects of Eligibility for Children Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing under IDEA Part B Section 619 Preschool: A Survey Report, 2015 (2016), 619 Consortium, NCHAM, and ECTA
- Eligibility and Service Delivery Policies: Differences Between IDEA Part C and IDEA Part B: A Comparison Chart, 2016: Compares Part C and Part B policies in the following areas: Eligibility Criteria, Eligibility Determination, Types of Services, Service Settings, Service Recipients, Parental Rights, and System of Payments. It is intended as a resource to support transition between these programs for children who are deaf or hard of hearing.
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)
Hands & Voices
Hands & Voices (H&V) is a non-profit, parent-driven organization that supports families of children who are deaf or hard of hearing. Non-biased about communication methodologies, H&V believes that families can make the best choices for their children through access to good information and support. H&V provides thought leadership in health, education and parenting arenas, and works with families and supporting systems such as hearing screening, identification, early intervention, school-age, and transition from high school. See all the work that H&V is involved in.
- The Family Leadership in Language and Learning Center (FL3) at H&V is a technical resource center for parents and caregivers of children who are deaf or hard of hearing. Its goal is to increase family engagement and leadership, and strengthen family support in Early Hearing Detection & Intervention (EHDI) systems of care to enable families to optimize language, literacy, and social-emotional development. Work of the FL3 includes technical assistance, training and education, resource development, quality improvement methodology and evaluation, and policy initiatives.
- 5 Reasons to Say YES to Assessments in Early Intervention is an infographic you can use to reach families about the importance of ongoing assessment in early intervention. Developed by family leaders for new families, this infographic points families in a positive way with their early intervention team in those first valuable years. It is available in both English and Spanish languages.
- 8 Reasons to say YES to Early Intervention for your child who is Deaf/Hard of Hearing(D/HH) ...What are you waiting for?: This infographic illustrates to families the positive aspects of early intervention. It provides information to help all families, regardless of the degree of their child's hearing loss/level or communication/language, understand and advocate for early intervention services when needed for their child. Providers can also share the resource when discussing early intervention and its importance. A companion webinar discussing the infographic is also available.
- A Parent's Guide to Deaf and Hard of Hearing Early Intervention Recommendations: "How do we know if our child is receiving the right services?" Many parents ask this question when they first get the news that their child is deaf or hard of hearing (D/HH) and are setting up needed services for the first time. In 2013, the Joint Committee on Infant Hearing (JCIH) created twelve goals to supplement the Early Intervention Recommendations outlined in their initial 2007 statement. The Supplement* defines quality early intervention and recommended practices. The national Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) Parent to Parent Committee developed this guide to communicate directly with parents who can use this Guide to understand what to expect and advocate for in Early Intervention.
- Parent Tip Sheets for Language, Literacy and Social-Emotional Development: You will find eight different Parent Tip Sheets created for parents and caretakers of children who are deaf or hard of hearing (D/HH) to use with the support of an Early Intervention provider with experience working with children who are D/HH. Each Tip Sheet briefly describes the developmental process of infants and toddlers post-identified hearing condition for cognitive, social, emotional, language (semantics, syntax-morphology, pragmatics, phonology - auditory and visual), pre-literacy and literacy development. These Tip Sheets provide suggestions for parents and caretakers, for fun, everyday activities to enhance their baby's development in these aspects! Hang these up on your refrigerator and pick an activity or two to include in a baby's daily routine or when they are out and about exploring the world.
- The Hands & Voices Virtual Waiting Room: This site was created for families with children who have been referred to or are in the care of an audiologist and who are receiving those services through technology or "telehealth". Much of this information is useful for families who are preparing for onsite visits. Instead of sitting in an actual waiting room at a clinic, some families are in our homes or a remote location waiting to connect with an audiologist through the internet. This connection provides potentially a safer and more convenient way to get important and quality services. What families may lack, however, is some of the information and resources that often are built into an in-person waiting room experience. And that is what we are recreating here: unbiased information, resources, and connections for families as we embark or continue our journey with their child.
- US National Library of Health, Genetics Home Reference: Fragile X: Descriptive information on Fragile X Syndrome including prevalence, causes, diagnosis and management.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Fragile X: Information for families about the causes and treatments of Fragile X.
- The FRAXA Research Foundation has general information about the common symptoms of Fragile X and how a diagnosis is made.
- The National Fragile X Foundation provides information for families who have recently received a diagnosis of Fragile X.
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Development
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Development has an informational page on Learning Disabilities that describes Learning Disabilities and the signs, diagnosis, treatment options, studies and resources for parents and professionals.
Mental Health and Challenging Behaviors
Office of Special Education Programs
- Supporting Child and Student Social, Emotional, Behavioral and Mental Health Needs to enhance the promotion of mental health and the social and emotional well-being among children and students. This resource provides highlights of seven key challenges to providing school- or program-based mental health support across early childhood, K-12 schools, and higher education settings, and presents seven corresponding recommendations.
- National Center for Pyramid Model Innovations assists states and programs to implement the Pyramid Model for Supporting Social Emotional Competence in Infants and Young Children (Pyramid Model) within early intervention and early education programs. The focus in on promoting the social, emotional, and behavioral outcomes of young children birth to five, reducing the use of inappropriate discipline practices, promoting family engagement, using data for decision-making, integrating early childhood and infant mental health consultation and fostering inclusion.
National Head Start Technical Assistance Centers
Head Start Early Childhood Learning & Knowledge Center: Mental Health provides information on a variety of topics related to social emotional development:
- Mental Health in Young Children
- Building Resilience to Cope with Stress and Trauma
- Promoting Children's Social and Emotional Well-being
Prenatal Exposure to Substances
Office of Special Education Programs
Eligibility Determinations for Children with a visual impairment (2017) is a memorandum policy letter from OSEP that provides additional guidance to assist states with supporting their local education agencies in reaching appropriate eligibility determinations for children with a visual impairment disability, including blindness. Links to resources are included to help states examine their procedures that relate to the identification and evaluation of children with this disability.
Prevent Blindness: Your Baby's Developing Sight: Vision problems affect one in 20 preschoolers and one in four school-age children. Untreated eye problems can worsen and lead to other serious problems as well as affect learning ability, personality and adjustment in school.
- Small Steps for Big Vision: An Eye Health Information Tool Kit for Parents and Caregivers: The tool kit was co-developed by the National Center for Children's Vision and Eye Health at Prevent Blindness in partnership with the National Head Start Association. The tool kit, available in English and Spanish, provides parents and caregivers with information, action strategies and assistance in order to care for their children and their own vision and eye health.
- Children's Vision and Eye Health: A Snapshot of Current National Issues: This booklet provides information on Common Vision Disorders in Children, Early Detection of Vision Disorders, Screening Rates, Equity, Vision Screenings in Preschool and Education Settings, Treatment and Follow-up, National Guidance and Recommendations and State Highlights.
- Vision Screening and Eye Exams
Centers for Disease Control
The Centers for Disease Control maintains information on Zika and Pregnancy:
- If Your Family has been Infected by Zika: Information on the research related to Zika infection in pregnancy.
- Care for Babies with Congenital Zika Syndrome
See also: eNotes on Zika Virus