Excellence in Education Begins Early: Developmental Screening and Other Resources
When children enter elementary schools, their potential is cultivated by the educators, transportation workers, maintenance personnel, nutrition providers and administrators and the resources our society provides them. The Georgia Department of Health wants families to know that, in the time prior to enrollment, there are critical resources which may enhance children's potential to excel later in life.
The Department of Health offers free screenings for developmental delays to all families, including foster families, regardless of income or immigration status. If the screening indicates that the child is at risk of developmental delay, then the department can help the child receive further diagnostic tests. If those tests confirm a developmental delay, state agencies are obligated to provide specific types of assistance to address the child's needs.
What might be a "developmental delay?" Think about hearing, for example. Newborns are typically given simple hearing tests at birth, and then they don't normally receive another hearing test, even with regular pediatrician visits, until age 3 or older. While hearing deficits detected later can often be addressed, the child's language skills might not have developed as rapidly as those of their peers. The Department of Health conducts hearing screenings and can refer the child to an audiologist for testing. If a hearing deficit is confirmed, appropriate medical interventions can begin, including speech therapy. For more information about hearing and language issues, visit the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association's website. Materials for the public are available in English and Spanish.
So how can a person concerned about a child get the process started?
When you have understood enough about the screening and the services which might benefit the child, download the referral form and send it per the instructions on the form. Anybody can send in the referral form!
If you would prefer to get more information about these services in person, find the Maternal and Child Health Coordinator using the zip code or county where the child lives. For example, for Columbia County, the coordinator for Children 1st is Jan Walker at the East Central Health District, 1916 North Leg Road, Augusta, GA 30909. The phone is (706) 667-4757.
Other resources and websites for further reading:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has developed an application for mobile devices in English and Spanish to help parents track their children's development.
Children's Medical Services of the Georgia Department of Health, for ages 0-20 with chronic medical conditions and modest income
Children 1st, for ages 0-5. Primary point of contact for services for children at risk of developmental delay
Babies Can't Wait, Ages 0-3, services for infants and toddlers at risk of developmental delay. No income eligibility requirement.
Georgia Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program - Use this link to schedule an appointment to see if you are eligible. Alternatively, call toll-free 866-374-6942.
Breastfeeding Promotion Services - WIC Breastfeeding Helpline (800) 992-9708