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CDC reappoints Shriver Center autism expert as an Act Early Ambassador


UMass Medical School autism advocate Elaine Gabovitch, MPA, has been reappointed to her fourth term as Act Early Ambassador to Massachusetts by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to promote the early identification of developmental delays.

Gabovitch, family faculty in the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) program at UMass Medical School’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center, will serve a two-year term, from May 1, 2016, until April 30, 2018. She also is State Team Leader for the Massachusetts Act Early Program and an instructor in UMass Medical School’s Department of Family Medicine and Community Health.

“I am honored to be an Act Early Ambassador and look forward to continuing to move the needle forward for kids and families in my next term,” Gabovitch said.

Learn the Signs. Act Early.” is a national campaign by the CDC to promote the early diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and other developmental disabilities. Gabovitch first served as an Act Early Ambassador from June 2011 to May 2012 as part of a nationwide pilot launched to develop a network of state-level experts who would help parents and professionals learn to recognize and address developmental disabilities. She was reappointed an ambassador in February 2013 for 15 months, and again for a two-year term from May 2014 to April 2016.

The mother of a child with an autism spectrum disorder, Gabovitch is a passionate advocate for families affected by ASDs. “I got into autism awareness work back in 1999 upon hearing from so many other parents that they were instructed as I was to ‘wait and see’ by their children’s pediatricians. The need for education was great back then and though it’s getting better these days, it’s still much needed to reduce early identification disparities for all young children. This is what drives me,” Gabovitch said.

As an Act Early Ambassador, Gabovitch serves as the Massachusetts point-of-contact for the national “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” program, supporting the work of Act Early Teams and other initiatives to improve early identification of developmental delay and disability. She also promotes the use of “Learn the Signs. Act Early.”  developmental monitoring resources such as milestone checklists, and professional education tools such as online training for early education providers and primary care clinicians. Gabovitch will travel to the CDC in Atlanta to attend the CDC’s annual Act Early Ambassador meeting as a senior member of the latest cohort from June 7-9.

Among the many projects Gabovitch has led for the Massachusetts Act Early Coalition are two leading initiatives: the Considering Culture in AutismScreening guide and kit, which she developed in 2012 with funding from the national Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs; and the Considering Culture in Autism Screening curriculum, which she developed in 2012 with a grant from the Deborah Munroe Noonan Memorial Research Fund. Anyone interested in obtaining the screening curriculum should contact at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center at UMass Medical School for more information.