As a newborn, Kylie didn’t need services for developmental problems. But when she was evaluated a second time at age 26 months, things had changed – and changed a lot.
The little girl’s story is but one of many examples of why parents should have their children screened every six months, said Cathy Estes, coordinator at Sunflower’s Early Education Center (EEC), 1312 Patton, Great Bend. Its services are free.
“Kylie had more than a 50-percent delay in all developmental areas – cognitive, social/emotional, self-help, motor skills and language,” Estes said. “After only six months with us, Kylie significantly improved to a 30- to 35-percent delay in only three areas.”
She was then enrolled in Sunflower’s Incredible Years Preschool, and her speech and social skills improved every day.
There are so many things that look “normal” at birth – even diagnosed conditions such as Down syndrome, Estes said. All new babies typically are the same because they have such limited skills.
“However,” Estes noted, “an infant’s stage of development can give us signals. Lifting their heads and cooing in response to a parent’s voice are significant milestones. And this is to say nothing of more obvious skills such as rolling over and pushing up when they are on their tummies.
“Parents need to realize that not all children develop at the same pace,” Estes continued. “They also need to know that sometimes there are developmental signals that we can detect. Our teachers and therapists are trained and compassionate professionals.”
If children are not re-screened regularly from age birth to 3, they sometimes fall through the cracks and don’t receive the early intervention they need, Estes emphasized.
“A major developmental delay may be missed, which could present severe problems later,” she explained. “We can intervene early in life while the brain is soft and pliable, and absorbing information constantly.
“After all,” Estes noted, “85 percent of our development occurs before age 3. If we can, in effect, re-route things, the child is capable of overcoming what could later become irreversible. It is much easier to form the skills than learn how to undo behaviors. Early intervention also provides the means to appropriately deal with a significant developmental delay or disability.”
Estes also said parents shouldn’t expect family doctors to thoroughly screen children when the issue is an ear infection or similar problem.
“Doctors cannot be expected to screen for developmental delays during a regular office visit,” Estes said. “Time with the child is limited and they must concentrate on medical issues. That being said, when physicians have concerns, they refer to us. This is so helpful for the little ones and their parents.”
Sunflower, a non-profit agency, owns and operates both the EEC and Incredible Years Preschool. It serves infants, toddlers and adults in Barton, Pawnee, Rice, Rush and Stafford counties. The EEC is part of the tiny-k network in Kansas.