You may not remember your first day at school, but your parents do and most will tell you how excited you were. Today, children have likely attended pre-school or daycare, but ‘real’ school starts with kindergarten. If you have a child starting kindergarten in fall 2015, this is the time to start getting them ready, and what better way than with a special health information event?
These events are organized in most parts of our region by your local Public Health office. They bring together Public Health staff and information including sensory screeners for vision and hearing, a nutritionist, language therapist and someone to help with dental health (on the Sunshine Coast, this is done by, yes, the Tooth Fairy”). These community events include immunization updates and health checks from a variety of Public Health professionals.
Among the services present at the event will be a speech and language therapist who will check on your child’s ability to express themselves. After all, in these days of ‘screens everywhere’ children may not be practising their communications as much as they could.
The nutritionist will have lunchbox loads of good information including how to make a lunch that is not only nutritious, but that your child will actually eat!
Sensory screening for vision and hearing also have their place, and fun, too. Screening is conducted using playful interaction between the practitioner and the children. For example, screening for hearing includes having children wearing headphones and getting them to raise their hands when they hear a ‘beep’ sound. (To your child, this will be fun. Honest!)
Parents and families benefit as well. The intent of the event is to provide guidance in getting your child ready for his or her first day school. It is hard enough raising a child and getting them ready for school so having knowledgeable and helpful people available can mean everything is just a little easier. Parents can ask any questions they have or follow up by making appointments or getting referrals with other child health professionals.
To a grown-up mind, these important services may be mundane, but to a child starting to think about going to SCHOOL, they can be delightful. Much of the screening is done with playful tools or activities that help children participate. For parents, it is the information that counts most, but knowing their child is ready for kindergarten is encouraging. And this is an ideal time to catch any potential issues, after all, early detection means more successful results.
Events to guide families and young children towards school entry are scheduled individually by community usually during April or May. If your child will be staring school this fall, look for an announcement in your local paper for locations, dates and times. Or call your local Public Health clinic for details.
And next September, you can walk your child into his or her first ‘real’ classroom knowing they’re all set to learn. What a feeling!
Dr. Paul Martiquet is the Medical Health Officer for Rural Vancouver Coastal Health including Powell River, the Sunshine Coast, Sea-to-Sky, Bella Bella and Bella Coola.