Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities to host Act Early Summit

(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) — Leaders in early identification of autism from the western United States and beyond will hold a summit in Sacramento to strategize how to better identify children at risk of the disorder for the earliest possible interventions. The timing of the summit is especially important given looming state and federal budget cuts that threaten health and education programs for young children.

The effort is critical, organizers said, because despite verified increases in the incidence of children with autism in California and elsewhere, many at-risk children are not being identified early enough, losing valuable time receiving critical intervention.

“We are under-identifying children with autism and developmental delays in the state of California,” said Robin Hansen, director of the Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (CEDD) at the UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute, which is hosting the summit.

The incidence of autism is approximately 1 in 150 8-year-old children nationwide, but Hansen said that, given the child population in California, early identification rates for children with autism — as well as other developmental disorders — is low.

“And there isn’t a consistent plan that involves all of the professionals who are likely to see young children to improve identification,” Hansen said.

The Act Early Regional Summit will be held on Monday, June 8 and Tuesday, June 9 starting at 8 a.m. at the Embassy Suites Sacramento Riverfront-Promenade. The event is jointly organized by the Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities at the UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute and the University of Southern California University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities.

The meeting is sponsored by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities and the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau. It is being coordinated through the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD). Participants include representatives of the state departments of developmental services, education, public health, managed health care, social services and the council of developmental disabilities.

State teams from Nevada, Arizona, Hawaii and the U.S. territories of Guam, American Samoa and the Mariana Islands will also participate. The goal of the summit is to share information on effective developmental screening and develop an action plan for coordinated, comprehensive early identification of developmental disabilities in young children at a statewide level.

Hansen said that in California, there is a need for coordinated, systematic screening that includes physicians and other health-care providers, child-care providers, pre-school teachers and other professionals who may have a role in the early lives of young children. Dissemination of information to parents about early warning signs of autism and developmental delays is another component of the Act Early Summit.

Speakers at the summit will include George Jeisen, executive director of the Association of University Centers on Developmental Disabilities; Georgina Peacock of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities; Paul Carbone, a leading developmental pediatrician and professor in the University of Utah School of Medicine; and Jennifer May of the National Academy for State Health Policy.

Information on the summit may be found at

The UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute, in Sacramento, Calif., was founded in 1998 as a unique interdisciplinary research center where parents, community leaders, researchers, clinicians and volunteers collaborate to study and treat autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders. More information about the institute is available on the Web at

*UC Davis