First Things First program identifies concerns regarding young children


MOHAVE COUNTY – A brief produced by First Things First shows that many children in Arizona are not being screened for potential learning delays and disabilities in the crucial early years – when intervention is most successful.

“While every child develops at their own pace, there are certain milestones they should reach from birth to 5 years old in how they play, learn, speak, behave, and move,” said FTF Chief Program Officer Michelle Katona. “Developmental screenings are a way to partner with families to learn about a child’s development and identify concerns that can point to a delay or disability. Sadly, many children in Arizona are missing the opportunity to have those issues identified early on.”


A grant provided by the First Things First La Paz/Mohave Regional Partnership Council to The Learning Center for Families (TLC) out of St. George, Utah, provides home visitation and screening services to families of young children living in the rural Arizona strip area.  

An initial screening held during a Child Find event at a food drive in Colorado City identified a 2-year-old having trouble hearing in both ears. The child’s parents also expressed concerns about delays in speech.

The child was referred to the Arizona Early Intervention Program where a specialist determined that the toddler needed to have tubes put in. After the tubes were put in, the child’s speech and language improved significantly.

 “Without the initial screening at the Child Find event, it is hard to know how long it would have taken to learn that the toddler had hearing problems,” said TLC Early Head Start Coordinator Terina Taulogo. “Delays in speech early can have a significant impact on a child’s ability to learn.”

Young children frequently don’t know how to communicate that they have a problem with their vision or hearing. A routine screening during a home visit by Parents As Teacher, also funded by First Things First, found previously undiagnosed vision concerns for a 4-year-old girl in Kingman. The girl’s parents were surprised because their daughter had never complained about vision problems before. An ophthalmologist confirmed that the girl needed glasses, which she now proudly wears.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that pediatricians talk with families about their child’s development at every well-child visit between birth and 3 years old, and conduct developmental screenings at 9, 18 and 30 months of age. Children also may be screened by staff working with a variety of parenting education or family support programs in the community. Data presented in the Starting Strong brief show that, for many children, those screenings are not happening.

For example: The 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health found that only 1 in 4 Arizona parents, 26 percent, surveyed said that they were asked by a healthcare provider to complete a developmental screening tool concerning their child’s development in the past year.

The Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) indicated that in 2016 providers reported that  only 1 in 5, 21 percent, of 1, 2 and 3 year-olds served by the program for the preceding year had received a developmental screening.

 In addition, families whose children have identified delays or disabilities may have difficulty accessing services and support to address those issues due to a variety of systemic challenges.

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