Early Childhood Screening gives kids a head start on successGwen Genereau of Cloquet is quick to sing the praises of Early Childhood Screening. She has four children, now ages 7, 9, 13 and 14, who all went through the process as preschoolers, and she said they are all better off because of it.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
Gwen Genereau of Cloquet is quick to sing the praises of Early Childhood Screening. She has four children, now ages 7, 9, 13 and 14, who all went through the process as preschoolers, and she said they are all better off because of it.
“For me as a parent,” she explained, “it provided a great opportunity to find out where my kids were at academically and whether the things I was teaching them at home were enough to prepare them for school.”
Genereau went on to stress that the screening is not an intelligence test but a chance to assess if the child has any learning problems that need to be addressed, or if there is anything that can be done to help better equip them for kindergarten.
Theresa Blais, Cloquet Early Childhood Screening program manager, said the state of Minnesota has mandated that all children must go through Early Childhood Screening (formerly known as Preschool Screening) before they enter kindergarten. In Cloquet, screenings are offered two to three times a year, generally in the fall, winter and spring.
An upcoming session is slated for next week, May 21-24, and Blais said there are a few spots still open on the schedule. Interested parents should contact her at 218-879-9291.
“It’s free of charge, and it’s fun,” said Blais. “It’s not like the child is being grilled – they’re playing what we call ‘school games.’ We encourage parents not to tell their child that he or she is going to go take a test at some building they’ve never been before. Sometimes that can sound a little scary to them.”
While a child need only go through Early Childhood Screening once, it can be done at the age of 3, 4 or 5.
“We try to get them before their fourth birthday if we can,” Blais said. “We’ve found that age three years, eight months, and after is a good time for the kids because they’re better able to separate from their parents at that age, unless they’ve been in a preschool setting, which more and more children are these days.”
Each screening takes approximately an hour to complete, normally between the hours of 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. in order to keep it within the optimal time frame for the children.
Trained educators conduct the screenings in an actual classroom at Cloquet Community Education in “a child-friendly area,” according to Blais.
First, the child goes in to see the screener who assesses him or her on such things as language development, literacy, physical health and development and language development. While the child is with the screener, the parent speaks with parent educator Grace Hall, who talks with him or her about getting their child ready for kindergarten, outlining various things they can do with their child at home such as reading, use of scissors, numbers, and other skills that will give them a head start on kindergarten readiness.
“She also has a wealth of information as far as community resources,” said Blais. “We have a lot of families who are new to the area, and she can help familiarize them with what’s out there, as well as the schools themselves and what their expectations are.”
The parent then follows up with the screener while the child meets with the school nurse, who checks out the child’s vision and hearing and, if requested by the parents, she can also test for color blindness. The nurse will also speak with the parents about health care, immunizations and answer any questions the parents may have.
Early Childhood Screening also has various specialists on hand, sometimes from the school and/or Head Start or the Human Development Center, to speak to parents about any social/emotional concerns as outlined in a sheet the parents are asked to fill out before they bring their child in for the screening.
“It’s designed to help the parents be more aware of where their child is at developmentally,” explained Blais, “or if there is any area where they might need a little additional help, such as if their child is really frightened of strangers, if they wet the bed or if they don’t like to eat.”
The children are treated to cookies and little “treasures” they get to choose from a basket following their screenings, and each also receives a bag with a free book of their choice.
Blais said each parent will walk out of the screening that day knowing if there are any matters that need to be addressed with their child’s health or readiness to enter kindergarten.
“We’re screening the children to make sure that by the time they enter kindergarten they are totally ready,” said Blais, “so if they have any vision or hearing problems, or motor problems, or speech problems, they’ll have time to work on those things so they can be totally ready by the time they enter school.”