Act Early Network News, Spring 2023 Issue

May 12, 2023

Spring 2023 Issue

NJ’s Ocean County WIC Program Implements the CDC’s Developmental Milestone Checklist Program

Spring is a season marked by new growth and this Spring was no different for the Ocean County WIC Program in New Jersey. With seed funding and technical assistance from the Association of State Public Health Nutritionists, and with the support of the CDC’s Act Early Ambassador to NJ, WIC staff in 3 clinics introduced the CDC‘s Developmental Milestone Checklists as an easy and reliable tool for parents to monitor their child’s development, as part of standard WIC provisions for families certifying onsite. This integration was an obvious choice as WIC is a familiar and valued resource, offering critical services to improve health outcomes for low-income families. Incorporating developmental monitoring into nutrition education, and providing referrals and participant-centered goals allow parents to engage in their child’s development in a positive and confidential space.
The first month of the pilot resulted in over 430 checklists provided to families with infants and children, age ranging from 2 months up to their graduation from the WIC Program. Of the referrals provided, Early Intervention (EI) and POAC Autism Services were the most provided based on the needs identified. As the Ocean County WIC Program continues to bolster their services they provide to families, alternative ways to support and sustain family-engaged developmental monitoring are being explored. See pictures here (Classroom, Hallway).  

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Promoting the Utilization of Learn the Signs. Act Early Resources in Rehab Therapies

Annabelle is a pediatric physical therapist resident at Gillette Children’s and a University of Minnesota LEND (Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities) fellow. Annabelle worked with Dr. Jennifer Hall-Lande, Minnesota Act Early Ambassador, promoting Learn the Signs, Act Early (LTSAE) resources to rehab therapists. Using her expertise, Annabelle determined how therapists may utilize Act Early resources for family education to improve identification of delays in their patients. She made the resources easily accessible and presented on aspects of childhood development less familiar to physical therapists, such as early signs and diagnosis of Autism. The purpose was to better educate therapists on identifying delays outside of their specific scope of practice. Ninety-five rehab therapists, including speech and occupational therapy, were informed about how to utilize the milestone checklists and tracker app. Twenty physical therapists virtually attended the presentation specifically detailing how to use these resources in their discipline with an additional twenty being provided the recording. Annabelle continues to model utilization of resources within her practice and will further evaluate the implication of the resources within her clinic. As therapists educate families, the hope is to empower families to advocate for their children to get appropriate intervention for the best developmental outcomes. See picture here

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The Developmental Milestone Checklist Program at Anoka County WIC

Melanie Maldonado is a Masters of Public Health Nutrition student and Dietetic Intern at the University of Minnesota. She is also a MN LEND (Minnesota Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities) fellow on a project team with her mentor Dr. Jennifer Hall-Lande, CDC Act Early Ambassador to Minnesota. Melanie’s LEND project was to promote the CDC’s Learn the Signs, Act Early (LTSAE) public health campaign for early identification of developmental delays and early intervention. In addition to distributing approximately 100 books to childcare centers where Melanie had previous connections, she used her internship at Anoka County WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) to promote the WIC-specific LTSAE materials called The Developmental Milestone Checklist Program. Melanie presented to the WIC staff on the importance of WIC involvement in this campaign, as WIC staff are trusted providers that are in frequent contact with the demographic this campaign targets, and informed staff on how to get the program started. WIC staff at Anoka County are in the process of incorporating these materials into appointments once in-person visits resume in the fall of 2023.

See Melanie holding the Where Is Bear? Book here

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ACT Early Ambassadors share information about “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” with their Speech-Language-Hearing Colleagues

Three “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” (LTSAE) Ambassadors were invited to share information about the LTSAE Program with the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). Leslie C. Lopez (Louisiana), Alyx Medlock (New Mexico), and Clare Camacho (Federated States of Micronesia), all speech-language pathologists and ASHA members, wrote an article that was published in the January 2023 edition of the ASHA Leader, a bimonthly newsmagazine for audiologists, speech-language pathologists, and speech, language, and hearing scientists that seeks to illuminate the day-to-day work and lives of the 228,000 ASHA members. In the publication, the Act Early Ambassadors shared information about the Program’s mission, the qualifications for an Act Early Ambassadorship, and the roles and responsibilities of Ambassadors. Additionally, Leslie, Alyx, and Clare were able to share personal reflections on how they are fulfilling their mission to spread the word in their respective states. To date, the article has been downloaded over one thousand times. To read the article, visit

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Louisiana LEND Scholar Studies Family Perspectives on Developmental Monitoring

Maddie Mayes is a graduate student in the Speech-language Pathology program at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, and Louisiana Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) scholar mentored by Dr. Leslie C. Lopez, CDC Act Early Ambassador to Louisiana. Maddie’s leadership project sought to explore the knowledge and perspectives of parents and other caregivers regarding healthy development and developmental monitoring (DM). Specifically, Maddie wanted to learn what families and other caregivers know about healthy development and developmental milestones, and how families and other caregivers obtain knowledge on child development. She gained approval from LSUHSC’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) and completed semi-structured interviews with caregivers of children enrolled in Early HeadStart programs in the New Orleans metropolitan area. The interviews were recorded, transcribed and analyzed using thematic analysis. Maddie identified four themes (knowledge of DM; attitudes about DM; experiences with DM; and sources of DM knowledge), and concluded that caregivers have varying levels of understanding and engagement with DM, and that there is some inconsistency among awareness of DM. Maddie was invited to share her project as a platform presentation to over 300 attendees at LSUHSC’s School of Allied Health Professions annual Research Day in April. Future plans include sharing DM materials and books with Early HeadStart families and staff, and the development of a larger-scale project to further explore Louisiana caregiver knowledge, attitudes, and practices of DM and the impact on child health outcomes.

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Statewide Developmental Monitoring and Screening Week in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, the CDC Ambassador, Dr. Kate Barlow from American International College in Springfield, co-led a statewide Initiative with Carla Therriault from United Way of MA Bay, called “The MA Act Early Campaign” in April. This was the first ever Developmental Monitoring and Screening Week in the state. The event was sponsored by MA Act Early, United Way of MA Bay, Boston Children’s Hospital, MA Head Start, and MA WIC. The campaign had over 30 sites across the state host an event. Sites were provided guidelines for the event, Milestone Moments Booklets and “Where is Bear” books for children who participated. Other than the booklets and books, no other funding was provided. Follow up surveys to date have a 62% response rate, which indicate that approximately 500 children were either screened or completed a developmental monitoring checklist during the week-long event. Children who did not pass the screen or developmental monitoring checklist were referred to their pediatrician and/or Family TIES of MA, which is a referring agency. In addition, hundreds of “Learn the Signs. Act Early” flyers were provided to families. The purpose of the 2023 MA Act Early Campaign was to celebrate the young child and to focus on community, awareness, learning, and connection. The campaign hoped to generate conversations across MA about child development and increase awareness of the importance of developmental monitoring and screening. Please contact the MA Act Early Ambassador if you would like to repeat this effort in your state, [email protected].

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Learn The Signs. Act Early. + Help Me Grow = Perfect Fit, Perfect Timing. 

Help Me Grow Santa Barbara County, has launched with co-branding and utilization of CDC’s Learn the Signs. Act Early. materials taking front and center in all outreach and education to promote family engaged developmental monitoring.

Planning for the development of HMG SBC began in 2021 under the direction of Patty Moore, long time manager of Alpha Resource Center’s Children, Family & Advocacy program serving families with children with developmental disabilities or those at risk of delay. In 2022, Patty was named California’s Co-Ambassador to CDC’s Learn the Signs. Act Early Program. With an emphasis on outreach, family, provider, and community engagement, co-branding and embedding LTSAE materials in all efforts was a natural fit. Why reinvent the wheel?

In partnership and with funding from First 5 Santa Barbara County, website development and outreach materials were undertaken with an emphasis on respecting parents as their children’s best champion. Meeting and learning from CDC’s Ambassadors and Program Leaders has set the foundation for prioritizing in expanding public awareness, education, and outreach. HMG and LTSAE are a perfect match. Please see an example of one of our co-branded materials here

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May 2023: Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, providing an excellent opportunity to recognize the significant work of Champions who aim to address the mental health needs of children and youth. Mental health in childhood means reaching developmental and emotional milestones and learning healthy social skills and how to cope when there are problems. 

During Mental Health Awareness Month, AUCD will focus on the importance of mental health promotion, prevention supports, and strengthening of mental health systems for children and/or youths. This initiative celebrates the work of the Children's Mental Health Champions, who play a vital role in addressing these needs. Throughout May, the Champion's projects will be showcased on social media platforms using hashtags like #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth and #MentalHealthForAll

The Children's Mental Health Champions project is made possible through a cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Building on the efforts of the year two Champions, 2021-2022, twelve Champions were selected for 2022-2023 to continue to provide timely support for children and their families. The Champions developed state-specific work plans to implement effective strategies for mental health promotion, prevention support, and the creation of networks (e.g., school, healthcare, and community) to promote better connections between these systems. The 2022-2023 Champions represent California, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia.

By working together, we can help ensure that every child and young person receives the mental health support they need to thrive!

Join us in supporting mental health initiatives and advocating for the needs of children and youths.

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News from Act Early Network 

NJ's Ocean County WIC Program Implements the CDC's Developmental Milestone Checklist Program

Promoting the Utilization of Learn The Signs. Act Early Resources in Rehab Therapies

The Developmental Milesone Checklist Program at Anoka County WIC

ACT Early Ambassadors share information about "Learn the Signs. Act Early." with their Speech-Language-Hearing Colleagues

Louisiana LEND Scholar Studies Family Perspectives on Developmental Monitoring

Statewide Developmental Monitoring and Screening Week in Massachusetts

Learn The Signs. Act Early + Help Me Grow = Perfect Fit, Perfect Timing

News from Act Early Network Partners

May 2023: Mental Health Awareness Month 


Would you like to share important Act Early updates or innovative practices from your state, program or organization?

Submit your updates for the next Act Early Network News (Summer 2023) by emailing Tida Sonetirot ([email protected]).