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MT Effort Helps Identify Developmental Delays Before Kids Start School


Wednesday, July 28, 2021   

HELENA, Mont. - A Montana campaign is renewing its efforts to help identify developmental delays in young children.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's "Learn the Signs. Act Early" program is aimed at parents and people who work with children from birth to age 5. As part of that effort, Act Early Montana has launched a website to provide free resources to help folks recognize developmental disabilities.

Marcy Hanson, a registered nurse and the Montana Act Early ambassador, said most developmental delays or disorders aren't identified until kids reach school.

"What we know is early identification and intervention is really the best for overall health outcomes," she said. "So, the goal is to get these resources in parents' hands before they hit those early school-age years, so that we can get them the resources and the tools they need."

Because of COVID-19, she said, Montana Act Early has seen a dip in referral to services and wellness visits for children. With restrictions easing, the group hopes to ramp up services and outreach again. Hanson noted that one in four kids from birth to age 5 is at moderate or high risk for developmental, behavioral or social delays.

One in six children between ages 3 and 17 has a developmental disability that can affect how they play, learn, speak, act or move, according to the CDC. Hanson shared some of the milestones they look for in young children.

"Is your child meeting eye contact when you talk with them, when you interact with them? We also look for things like hearing, and feeding themselves, and walking and babbling and rolling over," she said, "all of those fun little milestones that kiddos progress through."

Hanson said the CDC provides a milestone tracker app that can be useful for parents and folks who work with young children, such as child care, education and health-care providers.

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