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Awareness campaign takes aim at autism, related disorders

April is Autism Awareness Month

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (March 25, 2013) — Kentucky physicians, parents, teachers and caregivers who want to understand a child’s developmental milestones and recognize the early signs of autism or related disorders are the target audience for a statewide campaign that launches April 2 as part of Autism Awareness Month.

actearlyThe University of Louisville Autism Center at Kosair Charities has partnered with the University of Kentucky Human Development Institute, the Kentucky Department of Education, the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) and autism support groups to launch a program modeled after a national effort. The campaign, “Learn the Signs. Act Early In Kentucky,” will features public service announcements, workshops, webinars and downloadable materials, all aimed at helping caregivers track a child’s physical, social, communication and cognitive progress.

“It is so important that we continue to work collaboratively to provide parents and others with the tools they need to identity the early signs of autism, related conditions or any developmental issues,” said Stephen Hall, commissioner of the Department for Behavioral Health, Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities within CHFS. “We know that getting early treatment and supports can make the difference in a child’s life.”

The primary objective of the campaign is to help adults recognize children with autism and other developmental disabilities as early as possible so children and families can seek the services and supports they need, according Dr. Scott Tomchek, U of L Autism Center’s co-clinical director and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s act early ambassador to Kentucky.

“If we are aware of typical development and become concerned as we are tracking developmental milestones, it is important to talk about these concerns with the child’s health care provider,” Tomchek said. “I cannot stress enough how important it is to act early if there is ever a developmental concern.”

The campaign has been effective to date because it takes a three-pronged approach of education, tools for families and physicians and pointing people toward available resources, said Dr. Harold Kleinert, executive director of the UK Human Development Institute.

“The materials included in this campaign are great and address a critical state need,” he said. “If we can get parents to put one of the campaign’s childhood development charts on their refrigerator and mark off their child’s milestones, then we’ve succeeded.”

More information about the “Learn the Signs. Act Early In Kentucky” campaign is available at louisville.edu/education/kyautismtraining/actearly or by contacting Rebecca Grau at (502) 852-7799.