Early Intervention

Early Intervention

We conduct advocacy, capacity building, and systemic change activities to serve young children and their families. We provide services and supports for children with developmental delays and disabilities to enhance their development, maximize their potential, and increase the capacity of families to meet the special needs of their young children.


Stein Tikun Olam Infant-Family Mental Health 

Birth to Five Mental Health 

Early Head Start/ Head Start 

Delayed Services in Context of COVID-19: Consequences of Delayed Access to Early Intervention, Autism Evaluation and Diagnosis

Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic Response: Early Intervention Regional Center Services and Developmental Outcomes

First Connections: Early Identification of and Referrals to Early Intervention Services for Autism and other Developmental Delays

This 6-year grant provided training and technical assistance to 6 community-based organizations that provide screening of developmental disabilities, including autism, for children aged birth to five years in underserved communities, and link families to community resources. The goals of the project include:

  • Increasing the number of competent professionals to conduct early screening;
  • Increasing parents' knowledge of development, developmental disabilities, and community resources;
  • Increasing the number of young children from disadvantaged communities screened; and
  • Increasing the linkage of young children to services for developmental delays.

The project reached a large number of families in underserved communities, developed systemic methods for increasing screening that can be applied to other service systems, and collected and disseminated data useful for advocacy to reduce barriers in access to services. The grant increased developmental screening for young children from underserved communities, and produced systems change.

Following the conclusion of the First Connections project, First 5 LA partnered with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to launch Help Me Grow LA. Help Me Grow LA built on many of the lessons learned from First Connections. Dr. Williams and Fran Goldfarb from the CHLA UCEDD have been Co-Chairs of the System Synergy Council for Help Me Grow LA and Dr. Williams provided training and technical assistance for the launch.


Important Things to Know

  • Children from disadvantaged populations are less likely to be screened for developmental disabilities, including autism, and linked to appropriate resources in a timely way.
  • Parents, teachers, or medical providers who have concerns about a child's development should not wait. Acting early can make a big difference.
  • More information from the CDC about acting early

Additional Information

Training and Technical Assistance Team:

Marian Williams, PhD, Project Lead

Irina Quebles, PsyD

Marie Kanne Poulsen, PhD

Eliza Harley, PhD

Collaborators: First 5 LA, AltaMed, Eisner Pediatric and Family Medical Center, Foothill Family , Northeast Valley Health Corporation, South Central LA Regional Center , Allies For Every Child

Early Childhood Matters October 22 Edition: Accomplishments and Learning from First Connections Has Lasting Impact https://mailchi.mp/7ba1a20f961a/oct-2022-ecm-2486212?e=cebf4fddfd


The First Connections Toolkits:

Early Screening, Better Outcomes: Developmental Screening & Referral Toolkit for Pediatric Medical Clinics (https://www.first5la.org/article/early-screening-better-outcomes-developmental-screening-referral-toolkit-for-pediatric-medical-clinics/)

Early Screening, Better Outcomes: Developmental Screening & Referral Toolkit for Family Serving Agencies (https://www.first5la.org/article/early-screening-better-outcomes-developmental-screening-referral-toolkit-for-family-serving-agencies/ )

Early Screening, Better Outcomes: Developmental Screening, Referral, & Outreach Toolkit for Family Resource Centers (https://www.first5la.org/article/early-screening-better-outcomes-developmental-screening-referral-and-toolkit-for-family-resource-centers/ )



Williams ME. First Connections: Training and technical assistance to support community based agencies in underserved communities to conduct developmental screening and linkage for young children. AUCD 360, 14(29). Association of University Centers on Disability, Silver Springs, MD, April 2015.

Moore C, Zamora I, Patel M, Williams ME. Pediatric provider developmental screening practices and approaches. Clinical Pediatrics, 56(11), 1040-47, 2017. PMID: 28403632

 Williams ME, Zamora I, Akinsilo O, Hickey Chen A, Poulsen MK. Broad developmental screening misses young children with social-emotional needs. Clinical Pediatrics, 57, 844-849, 2018. PMID: 28952371.

 St Amant HG, Schrager SM, Pena-Ricardo C, Williams ME, Vanderbilt D. Language barriers impact access to services for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 48(2), 333-340, 2018. PMID: 28988384.

Perez H, Lakatos PP, Williams ME. Helping babies and young children involved with the child welfare system. Los Angeles, CA: Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, May 2019.

Trent E, Zamora I, Tyree A, Williams ME. Clinical considerations in the psychological assessment of bilingual young children. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice,49, 234-246, 2018. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/pro0000195.

Perrigo J, Berkovits L, Hurlburt M, Williams ME, Cederbaum J. Child abuse and neglect re-report rates for young children with developmental delays. Child Abuse and Neglect, 83, 1-9, 2018. PMID: 29940307.

Williams ME, Harley E, Quebles I, Poulsen MK. Policy and practice barriers to early identification of autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 51, 3423-3431, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-020-04807-7

 Quebles I, Perrigo J, Bravo R, Wheeler B, Poulsen MC, Williams ME. Latinx mothers’ experiences with linkage to early intervention. Infants and Young Children, 35, 189-204, 2022.

Williams ME, Chacon J. Innovations in cross-sector developmental screening. ZERO TO THREE Journal, 2018.

Goldfarb F, Williams ME, Kolhatkar G. Identification and linkage to services for developmental delays and disabilities for children involved in the childhood welfare system. Los Angeles County Dept of Child and Family Services, 2021.


Conference Presentations:

Williams ME, Zamora I, Wheeler BY, Poulsen MK. First Connections: Developing replicable models to reach underserved communities for autism screening in young children. Presentation at the 2014 CAAI Virtual Poster Symposium, Association of University Centers on Disability, July 28, 2014.

Williams, ME, Poulsen, M K, Zamora, I, Akinsilo, D., & Hickey-Chen, A. (2015). Screening for infant mental health needs: Research leading to policy change. Poster presented at the National Training Institute, Zero to Three, Seattle, WA, December 2015.

Rogers K & Williams ME. Family engagement and trauma-informed care. Presentation at the 2016 Child Health, Education, and Care Summit: From Partnerships to Impact, Sacramento, CA, November 9, 2016.

Williams ME & Poulsen MK. Promoting social-emotional screening: Partnerships for policy change. Presentation at the 2016 Child Health, Education, and Care Summit: From Partnerships to Impact, Sacramento, CA, November 9, 2016.

Patel Gera M, Lee JH, Felix G, Deavenport-Saman A, Williams ME, Yin L. (2016). Standardization and efficient operationalization of primary care based developmental screening for Latino children in community federally qualified health clinics. Poster presented at Pediatric Academic Societies annual conference, Baltimore MD, May 2016.

Williams ME. Developmental screening needs to include social-emotional screening: Research findings from a community study. Poster presented at the 2016 Association of University Centers on Disability (AUCD) Conference. Washington, DC, December 2016.

Berkovits L, Kissinger R, Rivera C, Williams ME. When it’s not autism: Differential diagnosis of ASD for young children with complex symptom presentations. Presentation delivered at the 2018 ZERO TO THREE annual conference, Denver, CO, October 5, 2018.

Williams ME, Harley E, Zamora I, Poulsen MK. Early identification of autism spectrum disorder. Presentation delivered at 2020 First 5 Summit, Irvine CA, February 2020.





Similar projects