703-324-4600 TTY 711
12011 Government Center Parkway
Fairfax, VA 22035
Cristin Bratt
Communications Director

Autism Awareness Month: How NCS' Infant & Toddler Connection is Helping Families Identify and Treat Developmental Delays

Infant and Toddler Connection logoAs the COVID-19 pandemic wanes, Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services' Infant & Toddler Connection is responding to the increase in request for screenings and services for families with young children with behaviors that suggest autism or other developmental delays.

ITC provides assessments and early intervention services for infants and toddlers (up to age 3) who have a developmental delay or a diagnosis that may lead to developmental delays.

A combination of factors may be the reason for the increase, says Dr. Subarna Dharia, ITC’s Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrician. Some families may have put off screening during the pandemic. Others may have not been aware of developmental delays due to limited social interactions during that time.

“I think with the pandemic in our rearview mirror, we are inundated with so many children with behaviors consistent with autism,” Dr. Dharia said. “We are trying to delineate families that need to pursue diagnostic services [beyond ITC] from children who have had limited experiences in the pandemic. There are certainly many variables. But we have to help families move forward and we have to give support regardless.”

If parents suspect developmental delays, they should discuss their concerns with their pediatrician and reach out to ITC to schedule a screening, said Susan Sigler, NCS’ Division Director, Inclusive Support Services. A child can be found eligible for services based on delays or differences. A diagnosis is not required. Once eligible the team will develop an individualized family plan to provide supports and services that promote development and participation in the community.

ITC is one of the only Virginia early intervention programs with its own pediatrician, Sigler says. Dr. Dharia has been working to raise awareness of autism and other developmental delays to groups that might not be aware of how signs present in very young children. She recently gave state-wide presentations on autism and girls, and ITC is continuing equitable outreach in all communities.

“There have been a lot of interesting findings in the research I have been reading about how girls (with autism) present differently than boys,” said Dr. Dharia. “It is not always captured by testing. Often girls have more social abilities so the other signs can be overlooked. Using a neurodiversity-affirming approach is also helpful at this early age."

For information on Fairfax County resources for children with autism, please visit Resources for Children with Autism and Parents | News Center (




Fairfax Virtual Assistant