Improving Systems, Practices, and Outcomes

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Public Awareness and Developmental Monitoring

Public Awareness

Public awareness is a term describing efforts to inform the public about the availability of early intervention or preschool special education services for young children with or at risk for developmental disabilities. The goals of public awareness efforts are to locate, identify, and evaluate young children with or at risk of developmental disabilities so that they can be linked with appropriate services.


Elements of an Effective Public Awareness Program

An effective public awareness program should provide ongoing activities throughout the state and involve the major organizations that have a direct interest in young children (e.g., public and private agencies at the state, regional, and local levels; parent groups; medical staff; and advocates). Public awareness should be broad enough to reach the general public, including persons with disabilities, using a variety of methods. Examples of methods to inform the general public include posters, pamphlets, displays, billboards, toll free-numbers, Web sites, videos, TV, radio, newspaper releases, and advertisements.


Part C Requirements

As a component of a comprehensive Child Find System, to identify, locate, and evaluate infants and toddlers with disabilities as early as possible, the state Part C program is required to develop a public awareness program. The purpose is to ensure there are ongoing efforts to keep the public informed about early intervention. Key audiences for the information are primary referral sources, which include families, hospitals, physicians, and child care programs. Information to be disseminated includes the scope and purpose of the early intervention system; how to make a referral; how to gain access to a comprehensive, multidisciplinary evaluation and assessment, and early intervention services; and the central directory.


Part B Requirements

The state Part B program uses the term Child Find to refer to the process of identifying, locating, and evaluating children in need of special education and related services. While Part B does not outline specific requirements for public awareness, public awareness efforts are important to ensure that all children with disabilities residing in the State who are in need of special education and related services (e.g., children with disabilities who are homeless or are wards of the State, children with disabilities attending private schools, and highly mobile children which includes migrant children) are identified, located, and evaluated. Therefore, states may include public awareness in their child find policies and procedures.


Developmental Monitoring and Surveillance

Developmental monitoring or surveillance involves observing a young child over time and tracking his or her achievement of typical developmental milestones. Developmental monitoring is less formal than developmental screening. It can be a way for primary referral sources, including parents and physicians, to make decisions about whether a referral for more formal developmental screening is necessary.


National Resources

Public Awareness

Infographic: Young Children with Special Needs (2019)

This infographic from the Office of Head Start, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services describes the IDEA Part C and Part B Section 619 programs and the ways in which early care and education staff can facilitate referral to the appropriate program and provide supports for infants, toddlers, young children and their families.


Overview of Early Intervention

This overview from the Center for Parent Information and Resources provides general information for families on early intervention and is available in English and Spanish.


TRACE: Tracking, Referral and Assessment Center for Excellence at the Puckett Institute

This Office of Special Education Programs-funded center identified and promoted the use of evidence-based practices and models for improving child find, referral, early identification, and eligibility determination for infants, toddlers, and young children with developmental delays or disabilities. Products of interest include:


Developmental Monitoring and Surveillance

Birth to Five: Watch Me Thrive!

This coordinated federal effort promotes healthy development, developmental monitoring, and developmental and behavioral screening and to support caregivers and providers. Their materials include links to federal resources on these topics and guides for specific primary referral sources.


Learn the Signs, Act Early

This progrCenters for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) program encourages parents and providers to learn the signs of typical development, monitor every child’s early development, and take action where there is a concern. The program offers free checklists and tools to make developmental monitoring practical and easy. Materials include:

There are over 50 state and territory Act Early Ambassadors who can help connect Part C staff with resources and collaborate with Part C on enhancing state Child Find systems.


First Words Project

This project provides checklists for communication development, information about social communication development, everyday activities for parents to use to support communication development, information about early intervention, and information for parents about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).


Behavior and Development from ZERO TO THREE

This site provides materials on developmental milestones from birth to 36 months and Tips for Your Child's Developmental Assessment.


Bright Futures for Families

This collaborative project of Family Voices with funding from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) provides families with child health and development materials in both Spanish and English. Bright Futures: Guidelines for Health Supervision of Infants, Children, and Adolescents (2017, 4th ed.), published by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) with funding from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB), provides comprehensive information for pediatricians and other health care providers on developmental surveillance and milestones, physical exams, screening procedures, and immunization recommendations.


Help Me Grow National Center

This center uses a systems model to increase identification of vulnerable children, help families promote development, and provide links to community resources. Help Me Grow provides a map of the Help Me Grow affiliates in each state.


State Resources

Colorado Child Find for Children Birth to Five

Provides a description of Child Find, instructions for referring children, and appropriate contacts.


Connecticut Birth to Three: Especially for Families

Has materials on typical development, services, and supports.


Maryland Department of Education: Family Support Services

Has information about Early Intervention and Preschool Special Education Services.


New Mexico Family Infant Toddler (FIT) Program's page for FIT Families

Provides a family handbook and information on developmental milestones, family rights, support and training, and funding in both English and Spanish.


Wisconsin Early Childhood Collaborating Partners' Child Find Website

Presents information about Child Find, birth through five and links to resources on eligibility, and Act Early WI's Learn the Signs (English and Spanish).