Examining Parents' Experiences and Information Needs Regarding Early Identification of Developmental Delays: Qualitative Research to Inform a Public Health Campaign
OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to assess the approach and materials of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's "Learn the Signs. Act Early." (LTSAE) health education campaign, which aims to improve awareness of developmental milestones and early warning signs of developmental delay among parents of young children.
METHODS: We conducted 2 phases of qualitative research. Focus groups assessed the campaign's objectives by exploring the experiences of parents with children who have developmental delays or disabilities to determine facilitators of and barriers to identification. In-depth interviews were conducted with parents of typically developing children, who reviewed campaign materials and provided feedback on appropriateness, appeal, and clarity with regard to the campaign's objectives.
RESULTS: Phase 1: Parents were typically the first to express concern about their child's development, and most talked with their child's health care provider. Two categories of health care providers emerged: those who proactively asked about a child's development, used tools to facilitate conversations, and made referrals, and those who did not ask about development, told parents to "wait and see," and did not provide information about services and supports. Few parents knew about special education services before identification. Phase 2: Participants found the campaign materials appealing, but were unclear about how to act early and why acting early was important.
CONCLUSIONS: Results affirmed LTSAE's evidence-based approach to educating parents about child development. Additional campaign considerations include providing more information about how to act early and why acting early is important and enhancing outreach to providers to help them communicate with concerned parents.