2017 Bronze Anvil Winner Highlight: CDC’s Learn The Signs, Act Early Helps Early Identification of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder


 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) created the “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” program to help improve early identification of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other developmental disabilities so that children and families can get the services and support they need for better health outcomes.

Porter Novelli (PN) and the Learn the Signs team research and compiled compelling audience insight regarding childhood development. For example, in the U.S., 1 in 6 children has a developmental disability. Early identification helps these children get life-changing services and support. 

CDC’s Learn The Signs, Act Early Helps Early Identification of Children with Autism Spectrum DisorderTracking a child’s developmental milestones offers important clues to developmental health and can help parents and providers identify early signs of delay or disability. The team wanted to expand beyond its core suite of materials to engage parents in a key developmental activity: reading with their child. 

To meet this goal, “Amazing Me – It’s Busy Being 3!” was created and overwhelmingly well received by parents. Building on the success of the program’s first book, the team ventured into the development of a series to capture each of the program’s target age groups, including the newly created “Where is Bear?,” designed in both English and Spanish, to entertain 2-year-olds with a bright, engaging storyline and help educate parents about important developmental milestones. 

PN facilitated a proposal process to identify the right author and illustrator for the project, and informal and formal testing was conducted in three rounds to ensure quality and parent approval throughout the development process. They also partnered with a cultural consultation organization to ensure that the Spanish version of the story had as much impact as the English version. During testing, 100 percent of English-and-Spanish-speaking parents graded the book as an A or B, based on a traditional school grading scale. 

“Where is Bear?” included interactive elements, bridging entertainment and education by encouraging children to help Tiger and his forest friends in their search to find Bear. With each turn of the page, children get closer to finding Bear and parents learn about many important milestones to look for in their child’s development. 

Once available online, the book was an immediate hit: more than 3,000 copies of Where is Bear? were ordered in English and Spanish. 

The book is also distributed at various conferences, and is used in various partnership activations. Most recently, the program partnered with Lysol, which provided printing support and joined in promotional efforts at various conferences hosting the program’s target audiences.

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