Screenings offer school readiness

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 23, 2001

Four-year-olds and their parents know kindergarten is on the horizon, and questions often arise about readiness.

Friday, March 23, 2001

Four-year-olds and their parents know kindergarten is on the horizon, and questions often arise about readiness.

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Early childhood screening provides a way to have those questions answered by education professionals. The process is helpful for both child and parent, said Carrie Troe, screening coordinator for Albert Lea Schools.

Screening got underway Thursday at Ramsey Center in Albert Lea with about 40 children participating. Another round of screening is scheduled for May 11.

Minnesota state law mandates that children must complete the early childhood screening before enrolling in kindergarten, Troe said. But the process offers a lot more than simply fulfilling state law.

&uot;It’s a huge advantage for kids and parents to go through this,&uot; Troe said. &uot;For parents, especially, its a chance to identify any concern with their child’s learning.&uot;

According to screening secretary Arlene Little, the process involves a series of tests for hearing, vision, speech and language as well as health and development.

&uot;It’s not about passing or failing. It’s just a way to get a head start on kindergarten,&uot; Little said. &uot;Many kids are right on track with most things but might need a little work one particular skill, like something with their speech or coordination.&uot;

When concerns are identified, the professionals performing the tests can make suggestions. The district even offers specialized preschool programs for children who may have vision or hearing problems or other developmental delays.

&uot;We know the process can be kind of scary, especially for parents, but this is just a way to put them in touch with resources and reassure them that their child is on track for kindergarten,&uot; Little said.

Troe said the district tries hard to make screening fun for the children, who range from 3-1/2 to 4-1/2 years old. Each child receives a free book upon completion of the tests. Troe is encouraging organizations and individuals willing to donate funds for the books to contact the district.

While the children often enjoy the screening process, parents are also put at ease because they can follow their child along through the tests. Child care is also available.

&uot;There is no question some parents get really nervous about screening, but we do a good job of making them comfortable,&uot; Troe said.

Early childhood screening is a collaborative effort between Albert Lea schools, Headstart and Freeborn County Public Health. To schedule an appointment for the May 11 screening day, call Little at 379-4843 on Monday, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.