Program to Educate Medical Professionals on Screening for
Autism Spectrum Disorders
description: The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE), First
and their partners (see below) launched a
statewide program designed to educate pediatric practitioners about developmental
screening in early childhood on April 25, 2003. Minnesota pediatricians, family
practitioners, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants were invited
to attend one of seven presentations and one Webcast from May 2003 through
June 2004 about screening for autism
spectrum disorders (ASD) and other developmental disorders. Attendees received a free First Signs Screening Kit and continuing medical education (CME)
through University of Minnesota and Children’s Hospital and Clinics.
Program instructors: Frances Page Glascoe, Ph.D., author and adjunct associate
professor of Pediatrics at Vanderbilt University conducted the training, along
with Nancy D. Wiseman, founder and president of First Signs,
Inc. Dr. Glascoe
is a leading researcher and expert in training physicians about how to screen
young children. Wiseman, the mother of a young daughter diagnosed with an autism
spectrum disorder, left her high-level corporate communications career after
more than 20 years to begin First Signs
when she learned from her own experience that the
early signs of developmental delays and disorders were often missed by parents
and physicians. First Signs
will conduct a two-year program evaluation with 100
practitioners in cooperation with the University of Minnesota.
Statewide need: Minnesota’s prevalence rates of autism have risen substantially
since 1990. The current ASD rate in 7-year-old children is approximately 1 in
200. Still, the overall rate for identifying children (0-5 years) is between
1 and 16 per 10,000. Better tools and training will help Minnesota’s existing
education, social service and health care systems identify ASD during toddler
and preschool years when interventions are most effective.
Goals: The goals of the Minnesota
program were to increase knowledge
of early warning signs among pediatric practitioners and raise their level of
awareness; to improve frequency and quality of screening young children; to facilitate
timely referral of children to local early intervention programs; and, to lower
the age at which children are identified with autism and other developmental
Funding: Minnesota Department of Education
committed more than $100,000 in federal
funds to the pilot. The Minnesota Chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics and
the Minnesota Academy of Physician Assistants endorsed the program.
Collaboration: The Minnesota Department of Education, Autism Society of Minnesota,
Minnesota Department of Health, University of Minnesota, and First
collaborated in this statewide initiative.
Contact: For more information, contact Phil Sievers at Minnesota Department of
Education (MDE), (612) 638-1528; or Nancy Wiseman at First
Signs, Inc., (978)
346-4380, or go to
Read the press release about the Minnesota First Signs
Minnesota First Signs Screening Kits are available
The First Signs Screening Kit has been tailored specifically for use in Minnesota
and is available for distribution.
The Minnesota First Signs Screening Kit includes all the items in the original
First Signs Screening Kit including the video and screening tools, as well as
specific resources and referral information for every community in the state.
For order information in Minnesota,
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