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Minnesota First Signs Fact Sheet

Minnesota Statewide Program to Educate Medical Professionals on Screening for
Autism Spectrum Disorders

Program description: The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE), First Signs, Inc., 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) credit 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 First Signs 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 disorders.

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 Signs, Inc. 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 program.


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, click here.

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Last update: 03/13/14
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