Minnesota Act Early Logo

Minnesota Act Early is a statewide outreach campaign that reaches out to families, communities, and organizations to promote early screening and early identification of potential developmental delays. The Minnesota Act Early team educates about healthy development, early signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and other developmental delays, the importance of regular developmental screening, and early intervention when there is a concern.

Whether you are a parent or a professional who works with young children and their families, our hope is that you will find helpful information at the MN Act Early website to promote healthy development in all children.

Learn the Signs

A photo of a small girl standing on a small step-ladder

Learn the Signs — Developmental milestones are skills your child learns such as taking their first step, smiling, waving, and pointing. As children grow older, they reach milestones in how they interact with others, play, learn, speak and behave. While each child is different and develops at their own pace, there are ages in which a child typically acquires a new skill. Some of these skills can be subtle while others are more obvious. Each stage of your child’s development is a new journey in how they interact with others and their environment. Learn about developmental milestones and celebrate your child’s individual development!

You should also become aware if your child is not reaching some of those important milestones or loses previously developed skills. By having the skills and knowledge to keep track of your child’s development, you can notice earlier on if your child is having trouble in one area and seek help.

Free Milestone Checklists

Act Early

a little boy holding a stuffed bear

Act Early — Regular screening allows both professionals and families to celebrate progress and identifies useful supports for children who have a developmental delay. Developmental screenings are recommended and useful for all children because early treatment and intervention will help children reach their potential. Screenings are short tests that assess a child’s development and help identify delays. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends screening for children at 9 months, 18 months and 24 or 30 months. Usually, children can be diagnosed with autism at 24 months.

Keep track of your child’s screening record, history and results! You can use the developmental screening passport from “Birth to Five, Watch me Thrive” sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and The U.S. Department of Education.

Content adapted from “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” Program, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
AMCHP State Public Health Autism Research Center 

Key Terms

Autism spectrum disorder

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that is caused by differences in how the brain functions. People with ASD may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in different ways. Signs of ASD begin during early childhood and usually last throughout a person’s life (1). ASD includes former diagnoses of autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and Asperger disorder. These diagnoses were collapsed into the single category of ASD in 2013.

Confidence interval

A confidence interval gives an estimated range of values which is likely to include the information (e.g., prevalence) that we want to know about.  The interval is a range of values that you can have confidence contains the true value in the population. There are different levels of confidence intervals; the most common is 95%. With a 95% confidence interval, we say that we are 95% confident that the value in our population will be included in our interval.  5% of the time, it will not.  So, we could say, “We are 95% confident that the prevalence of ASD in 8-year-olds in our surveillance area was between 21 and 27 per 1,000 children in 2014. Larger samples typically have smaller confidence intervals.  Smaller samples usually have bigger confidence intervals.

Developmental delay

A developmental delay is a persistent delay experienced by a child in reaching one or more developmental milestones—how children grow, move, communicate, interact, learn, and play.

Intellectual disability

Intellectual disability means that a person has difficulty learning at an expected level and functioning in daily life. In this report, intellectual disability is measured by intellectual quotient (IQ) test scores of less than or equal to 70.

IQ Test

A standardized psychological test or tool used to measure an individual's overall “intelligence quotient” (IQ). These tests often measureproblem-solvingg skills across a variety of domains.


Prevalence is a scientific term that describes the number of people with a disease or condition among a defined group at a specific period in time. Prevalence is usually expressed as a percentage or proportion of the defined group. For this project, we counted the number of 8-year-olds in 2014 who were identified with ASD and then divided that number by the total number of 8-year-olds in our surveillance area during 2014.

Statistical significance

The likelihood that a relationship between two or more variables is caused by something besides random chance.