CAN: Promoting healthy learners ready for success

Child Focus Early Learning Programs has long recognized the vital role optimal health plays in overall development. Providing rich learning experiences designed to help children achieve mastery of developmental milestones is integrated in daily programming for children. Ongoing assessments allow monitoring of children’s progress and interventions when developmental concerns arise. When health issues go unidentified and untreated, children struggle to master developmental milestones and will likely struggle in school.

Assuring children are in optimal health is critical to our work. Children should maintain a schedule of age-appropriate well child care. The primary care physician should conduct age appropriate screenings during well child exams to identify potential issues. Further examination should be completed when health concerns are suspected. Our agency utilizes information from primary care providers in working to assure children receive the care they need. When hearing or vision screening results are not included in documentation received from providers, we utilize age-appropriate screening tools to complete those screenings. The tools used do not require any response from the child allowing for screening of very young children and those with English as a second language. These tools are not used to diagnose a vision or hearing deficit. Screenings resulting in as “Refer” will result in a referral for further evaluation. Parents are then informed and assisted to access follow up evaluation. Imagine how difficult it would be to achieve letter recognition goals when letters are blurry. Development of fine motor skills may also be negatively impacted. Hearing deficits are often accompanied by speech impairments. Little ones cannot correctly reproduce letter sounds or words when they cannot hear them clearly. Behavior issues may occur when children become frustrated when they cannot communicate their wants or needs.

Each program year, we will have 50 to 60 children who receive treatment as a result of failed screenings. Twenty or more will receive eyeglasses.

Many children receive tubes to improve hearing. Three children were identified with hearing loss resulting in treatment with bilateral hearing aids. Most recently, a child did not pass the vision screening was identified with a vision deficit and received eyeglasses…at 19 months of age! Data reflects dramatic gains in developmental assessment scores for those little ones receiving treatment for vision or hearing deficits. While participation in our early learning programs demonstrates typical developmental gains of 8 to 13 percentile points, for those who received treatment for sensory deficits, gains range from 29 to 49 percentile points.

Parents are a child’s first and most important teacher. You are the decision makers for your child’s health care. Your children count on you to help them be successful. Making sure health problems are identified and treated early will make a lasting difference for your child. Please discuss age-appropriate screenings with your child’s doctor. Making sure they are ready to learn will give them the best head start to success in their school years and beyond.