Health and developmental screenings

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, July 25, 2018

On Tuesday, Early Head Start in collaboration with Picayune Family Health Center conducted free health screenings for local children up to 5-years-old. Early Head Start Director Dr. Pamela Thomas said the goal was to provide free health and dental screenings to local families to promote early childhood development.

Maegan Futch with Picayune Family Health Center said they come to the Head Start center every year to conduct the free vision, dental and general physical exams.

While ensuring children are healthy physically, mental health is important as well, which is why early intervention and developmental delay screenings are important for young children, Thomas said.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

According to a recent article by the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics, Mississippi has the lowest number of developmental screenings in the nation. On average nationally, children aged 9-months to 35 months, 30.4 percent are screened for developmental delays annually. However, within Mississippi only 17.4 percent of children in that age range are screened.

Thomas said detecting developmental delays at an early age is critical for academic success later in life. Early Head Start partners with the Mississippi Department of Health’s First Steps Early Intervention program to screen children from birth to 3-years of age. Thomas said the program focuses on children who have noticeable delays at birth and who were born prematurely. However, she said they also provide screenings to families who have suspicions that their child has a delay.

Thomas said the earlier a developmental delay is detected, the child will have a greater chance of being successful later in life. This does not mean that all of a child’s developmental issues will be corrected, but they will be better equipped to deal with those issues and flourish as they grow, she said.

It is best to identify and respond to these delays before they go to elementary school, Thomas said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control website, early intervention services can include physical therapy, speech therapy and any other service a child needs to thrive.

Early intervention, “can have a significant impact on a child’s ability to learn new skills and overcome challenges and can increase success in school and life,” the website states.

The Mississippi Department of Health states that the First Steps program can help children younger than 3 with developmental needs. This includes free screenings, assessments, intervention services, transition plans, evaluations and several other services based on individual need. Thomas said that early intervention becomes the responsibility of the school district when a child reaches the age of 3.

Thomas said Early Head Start provides screenings for children in the program. Children not in Early Head Start can receive a screening at their local Mississippi Department of Health.