Preventative Care a Priority for Children

Preventative Care a Priority For Head Start Children
Posted on 09/27/2017
Young children learn through experiences and by using their five senses – hearing, sight, smell, taste and touch. Our senses help us figure out what’s going on around us. At Head Start, developmental health screenings are a key part of children’s overall health care, which can help identify concerns early.

Screening is the first step in getting to know a child. It helps the staff and families celebrate milestones, identify possible delays and concerns, and enhance developmental support. In partnership with families, these screenings help keep children on track.

“The staff works alongside parents to help identify any growth concerns their children may be experiencing. Vision and hearing concerns can often affect other areas of children’s growth. For instance, if a child is always squinting and doesn’t participate in activities, it may be that he or she needs glasses,” Family Service Worker (FSW) Lily Ashley Escobedo said. “Some children come back with glasses after their follow-ups. We strongly encourage parents to work closely with the child’s medical providers or specialist to address any identified concerns.”

Within 45 calendar days of a child’s entry into a Head Start program, he or she receives a sensory screening to identify any potential vision and hearing concerns from trained staff.

“The FSW perform a basic health screening that identifies the height, weight, blood pressure, vision and hearing of every child enrolled in the program,” Health Services Program Manager Arturo Oaxaca said. “They also check children for strabismus, a condition in which a child’s eyes are not straight. If this problem is not treated, it can cause amblyopia (lazy eye).”

The program assesses children’s visual acuity (clarity of vision) using the Tumbling “E” Chart or identifying HOTV letters by playing a matching game, with one eye covered at a time. For hearing, children are screened with pure tone audiometry machine, which tests children’s ability to hear sounds.

“If the results are unclear (abnormal) during a first attempt at screening, a child will be rescreened in 10 days. If these results are unclear a second time, the FSW will provide the parents with treatment recommendations or a referral to the doctor,” Oaxaca said. “Our goal is to identify any health concerns as early as possible in order to provide appropriate follow-up services and support.”

Fewer than ten percent of Head Start children are found to have unclear (vision or hearing) results. If any hearing or vision problems go undiagnosed, a child will fall behind in their cognitive, social, and emotional development. By identifying developmental concerns early, there is a better chance of correcting the problem so the child is healthy and ready to learn. Children need to be able to hear and see clearly to communicate and learn.