Investing in Early Brain Development

Marcus Autism Center Director Dr. Ami Klin says early brain development is the best investment we can make in public health. He reveals the active ingredient for changing the narrative of autism from one of disability to one of possibility.

Klin noted that 66,000 children born every year in the U.S. will have autism. While the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends screening for autism at 18 to 24 months, the median age of diagnosis is 4 – 5.7 years—and less than 20 percent of children receiving special education services in school are identified before age 3.

“Both the challenges and the solutions we are working on are relevant to a much broader group of children, because 10 percent of children have developmental delays that we can possibly help and change the course of their condition for the rest of their lives,” said Klin. “Intellectual disability, language disability, severe behavioral challenges—all of these things are not inevitable. It’s within our reach to change all of that if we can identify and intervene early.”

Klin said the same practice that helps children with autism—early social engagement—also helps other children who have developmental delays and communication challenges. And children who know how to interact as babies and young children are more likely to be reading proficiently by the end of third grade.

“The real active ingredient of communication is a caring adult who is there to listen to and engage with a baby,” said Klin. “We can engineer the environment where our children live and in doing so come up with a community viable solution for early treatment. Our goal is to make sure that the vulnerabilities our children are born with don’t translate into disability.”

Get the full recap of the Beyond 2020 Get Georgia Reading Summit that brought together a unique cross-section of community leaders and statewide decision-makers to stimulate innovative, scalable solutions that will create the conditions essential for all children to become proficient readers by the end of third grade.

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