Six children wearing hats sitting on outdoor play equipment.

A University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) Priority Area is a programmatic area of focus that is related to the mission of the UCEDD (to support inclusion of individuals with developmental disabilities in all aspects of community life) and encompasses a range of activity across the UCEDD core functions of research, training and…

Go to About Priority Areas

Early Childhood


The Early Childhood priority area at the Waisman Center encompasses work related to the healthy development and education of young children from birth through age 6. This work includes:

  • Local and statewide professional development, leadership and partnership activities.
  • Direct service for children and families through the Waisman Center Clinics, Autism Treatment Program and the Waisman Early Childhood Program.
  • Dissemination of resource information through the Waisman Resource Center.
  • Research investigating key aspects of child development and strategies to optimize development.

Three guiding principles throughout these activities are:

  • Child Development: Each child’s development unfolds uniquely in the context of relationships and environments.
  • Inclusion: All children deserve to participate in a broad range of activities and contexts as full members of families, communities, and society for their optimal development and quality of life. In programs providing direct services, this principle is translated into the concept of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), that is, activities are planned from their onset to be inclusive.
  • Focus on Ability: A belief that all children are capable of success and growth.

Our Programs

Autism Treatment Programs
The Waisman Center Autism Treatment Programs are provided through a partnership with the University of Wisconsin (UW) Medical Foundation. Starting Together (comprehensive and focused treatment based on Applied Behavior Analysis and the Early Start Denver Model, ages 2-6 at Waisman Early Childhood Program (WECP)); Growing Together (focused treatment for parent and child to learn positive behavior, ages 6-14); Transitioning Together (focused treatment for parent and teen to support skill, resources and strategies for a successful transition to adult life).

Nourishing Special Needs Nutrition Network (WIC)
Established to support the work of Wisconsin Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Nutritionists providing services to children and youth with special healthcare needs (CYSHCN).

Waisman Early Childhood Program (WECP)
The Waisman Early Childhood Program offers unique learning opportunities in a creative and supportive environment for children ages 1 through 5 year-round, as well as for children who have completed 4K and 5K in our summer Meteor Program.

Wisconsin Care Integration Initiative
The Wisconsin Care Integration Initiative (WiCII) project aims to increase family-centered, integrated systems of care for children with autism spectrum disorders and other developmental disabilities.

Wisconsin Sound Beginnings
A program is to assure that all families have equal access to a seamless system of early and continuous hearing screening, skilled and timely diagnostics and quality interventions to enable children who are deaf or hard of hearing to thrive.

Wisconsin Study to Explore Early Development in Autism (SEED)
The overall goals of the SEED are to: characterize phenotypic variability and identify relatively homogenous subgroups of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD); and investigate risk factors for ASD by comparing the early exposures and development of well-characterized ASD cases and controls selected to represent diverse population subgroups.

Completed Projects

  • Act Early Ambassador
    This project, which is sponsored by the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, is designed to develop a network of state-level experts to improve early identification of autism and other developmental disabilities. Act Early Ambassadors serve as state liaisons to the national Act Early Initiative and act as a community champion or change agent to increase awareness activities and improvement of early identification practices.
  • Act Early State Systems Grant
    The goal of the Wisconsin Act Early State Systems grant is to develop and implement a sustainable training and technical assistance model for public health departments to use national resources from “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” and “Birth to Five. Watch me Thrive.” to support developmental monitoring in public health programs.
  • AEIOu Research Project / for children who are deaf/hard of hearing
    The purpose of this project is to collaborate in a national study with the University of Colorado-Boulder to examine the language skills of young children between the ages of 14 and 36 months who are deaf and hard of hearing and are served by an early intervention Birth to 3 Program. The study will attempt to characterize the language strengths and weaknesses of these children and identify factors that are predictive of more successful language outcomes. To learn more visit: Early Hearing Detection and Intervention
  • Early Learning Challenge-Race to the Top
    "Early Learning Challenge" in blue text at the top, "Race to the Top" in red text below on the right, and a blue, red, and yellow upward-curved arrow on the left.The Waisman Center University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) is a partner with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction within the Race to the Top/Early Learning Challenge Professional Development Initiative. Through the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant and the WI Professional Development Initiative, the primary purpose is to strengthen cross sector alignment around professional development initiatives across multiple systems within Department of Health Services, Department of Public Instruction, Department of Children and Families and the private sector early childhood community, to more efficiently and effectively serve the needs of all young children, including children with disabilities. What are Core Competencies? Expectations for what the workforce should know (content) and be able to do (skills) in a respectful & competent manner (attitudes) in their roles working with and/or on behalf of children and their families. The Core Competencies are organized under 12 Content Areas. Why have Core Competencies? To create a common thread of Professional Development expectations across the variety of system partners (Higher Education, Child Care, Head Start, 4 & 5 year-old Kindergarten, Special Education, Child Welfare, Home Visiting, Health & Mental Health, Afterschool, Advocacy, and others) for the ultimate benefit of children and families in Wisconsin. To learn more visit: Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge (ELC)
  • Evaluation of Developmental Monitoring using LTSAE in Early Head Start Settings
    This study addresses the need to evaluate the feasibility and effectiveness of developmental monitoring using the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” (LTSAE) resources in Early Head Start settings. The goals of the study are to determine the feasibility of integrating LTSAE into Early Head Start operations, and to determine the impact of developmental monitoring using LTSAE on provider and parent knowledge and practice related to early identification of developmental delay.
  • WI-IN Partnership to Evaluate Use of LTSAE in Childcare Settings
    The Wisconsin-Indiana (WI-IN) Partnership addresses the need to evaluate the use of the CDC’s “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” LTSAE resources to support developmental monitoring in childcare systems.
  • Wisconsin Birth to 3 Personnel Development Project (WPDP) partners with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Birth to 3 Program to provide training, technical assistance and professional development opportunities for personnel within the Birth to 3 early intervention system.  The purpose is to design and deliver trainings, on-site technical assistance, and products defining evidence-based intervention practices for babies and toddlers with disabilities or delays in development, under the age of three. Funding comes through Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Part C and the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). Current focus is on full implementation of the Primary Coach Approach to Teaming within Natural Environments, with national support from ECTAC (Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center).