Catching potential development issues early is key
By Belle Hatfield
Parents of three-year-olds will have an opportunity to have their children screened for a variety of issues that could affect development at a screening day being held by Southwest Early Childhood Intervention. The screening day will take place on Thursday, Nov. 15, at the Beacon United Church hall on Beacon Street. Although there is no charge for the service, it is by appointment only, so pre-registration is required.
Valerie Gullison-Surette, the program’s executive director, says the aim of the screening program, is to “help families access services and support, as needed, to promote their child’s development prior to their school entry.”
Similar programs used to be offered by the Yarmouth Regional Hospital and by the Department of Public Health. Now the Intervention program tries to host a screening day every six months, when funds allow. The upcoming program is funded through a Yarmouth Community Health Board wellness grant.
Gullison-Surette says the program is open to any three-year old, not just children about whom there are concerns. Some will seek screening for confirmation of suspected problems – speech issues are a common worry. But the screening is a valuable tool for children whose parents have no particular concerns. The screening can pick up issues that, if left unchecked, might be more difficult to treat. Sometimes vision and hearing issues can continue undetected until well into the child’s school years. Gullison-Surette says the younger the child is when these problems are detected, the earlier they can be treated and corrected.
The Thursday morning clinic will include screening for several developmental milestones. On hand will be a variety of community partners including an occupational therapist, speech-language pathologists, a dental hygienist and an optometrist.
The screening program is available for families in Yarmouth County who have three-year-old children. To register, contact Gullison-Surette before Nov. 13 at 742-3366. Children must be accompanied by a parent/guardian throughout the duration of their appointment (approximately one-and-a-half hours.)
For those with pre-school children who are not three years of age (but between birth and school-entry age) Southwest Early Childhood Intervention accepts direct referrals and Gullison-Surette encourages anyone with concerns about their pre-school child’s development to call the same number to make a referral.