Like many children his age, Andrew seemed to be normal. He loved to climb on furniture, drive his cars across the carpet, and hug his mommy good night. But, when Andrew turned three and wasn’t even saying “mama” or “dada,” his parents became worried. It was obvious when they joined other children his age to play that something wasn’t right about Andrew’s lack of words. Then, mom began to notice that Andrew was very particular about sensory things like loud sounds and getting his hands dirty. Most three-year-old boys love to get their hands dirty–not Andrew.
Andrew’s mom and dad took him to see his pediatrician for his annual check-up and shared some of their concerns. Andrew had been born prematurely so they were used to his being a little behind the other children his age, but this felt different. The pediatrician recommended they complete a developmental screening questionnaire. Sure enough, Andrew scored low in communication and social-emotional skills. His doctor referred them to Early Intervention and a home visiting program to provide support and specialized activities.
On the fourth visit, Andrew’s home visitor decided to bring an activity that would challenge him both sensorially and in communication skills. She brought shaving cream and colors to paint with his toes. Andrew’s mom was a little uncertain – they didn’t normally do messy play in the house – but, the home visitor brought everything they would need to protect the floor and clean up afterward. The family had so much fun discovering together and, best of all, Andrew said the word “toes” before the end of the visit. After several months of home visits and interventions, it became clear that Andrew’s delays were a combination of being born prematurely and a lack of opportunity.
So often, we think that early childhood development happens naturally, on its own, without thinking about it or planning our next step. Julie Trickett, a local mom and advocate for more early childhood resources recently said, “I thought I could just wear my baby everywhere I went and he would learn by osmosis.”
Babies need more.
We want to give every family in our community a chance to ask the questions, “Is my child ready?,” “What is she missing?,” and “How can I help him have better skills to succeed?” That’s why United Way of Northern Utah is collaborating with community partners to support families with children from prenatal to age three in providing opportunities to develop the foundational skills they’ll build on throughout their lifetimes.
We’ve teamed up with Weber State University’s Child and Family Studies department, Help Me Grow, Weber Human Services, and Parents as Teachers to present our second annual Developmental Screening day on April 6, 2018 at the Newgate Mall from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Come for answers to your early childhood questions, and bring your children ages 0 to 5 for music, stories, activities, prize drawings, and a free children’s book for kids whose parents fill out a questionnaire.