by Paul H. Dworkin, MD

“In 2002, in response to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggesting that autism rates were at least 10 times higher than found in previous studies, Congress mandated the establishment of a national awareness and education program to disseminate information regarding autism identification and diagnosis to families and health care providers. The CDC responded to the mandate by developing the “Learn the Signs. Act Early” campaign (LTSAE) ( The developers of LTSAE wisely recognized the need to involve health care professionals, parents, and early educators in formative research, message and material testing, and a baseline survey before dissemination. This communication research, which consumed more than 1 year, profoundly informed the content of the campaign by yielding 2 key recommendations: that the campaign’s primary focus be expanded from the early detection of autism to that of children with a broad range of developmental concerns; and that the campaign should explicitly focus on the importance of monitoring children’s development. Furthermore, the results also directly informed the campaign’s strategic approach, objectives, messages, and materials. For example, the priority audience of the campaign shifted to low-income parents whose children are particularly vulnerable to adverse developmental outcomes as a consequence of economic disadvantage, rather than families of children identified with a disability at birth or soon thereafter.”

Download to read the entire article or read online in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics.