Easter Seals encourages parents to ‘Make the First Five Count’ for kids
As millions of Georgia kids prepare to return to school this month, Easter Seals North Georgia has launched “Make the First Five Count,” a national awareness effort designed to give children at risk of developmental delays the right support they need to be ready for school.
“The first five years are the most critical years of every child’s life,” says Donna Davidson, president and chief executive officer of Easter Seals North Georgia. “As parents, we have to take the proper precautions to ensure our children are reaching their developmental milestones.”
Davidson noted every year, more than one million children with unidentified disabilities and delays enter school with learning and health issues that put them far behind their peers.
In Georgia, nearly 60,000 kids under the age of three are at risk of developmental delays or disabilities that will set them back when they start school. Yet fewer than 10 percent of these children will receive early intervention services.
Part of the difficulty in getting help for children with disabilities is the cuts in funding, said Davidson.
“It’s harder than ever for families to access care, because essential programs to treat young children with disabilities are chronically underfunded and in danger of being scaled back even further this year,” she noted.
Currently Georgia receives $14.5 million from the federal government to support early intervention services – a decrease of $14,000 from the previous year despite the fact the numbers of children who could benefit from services continues to grow.
To best help their children, parents are encouraged to take the online “Ages & Stages Questionnaire” at www.makethefirstfivecount.org to assess their child’s developmental progress. The questionnaire is designed to screen children, from birth to five years old, to detect early signs of developmental delays, explained Davidson.
At the website, parents can also reference the “5 Minute Guide to 5 Areas of Development” which outlines the developmental milestones children should reach by age five in the areas of cognitive, sensory, language, social/emotional, and movement.