BY KAREN CAMPBELL
Weakley County Schools Communications Director
WEAKLEY COUNTY (March 31) – Four years ago, 11 students in Weakley County were considered nonverbal. Today, 30 students are working with school-based Speech/Language Pathologists (SLPs) to address the problem. Digging deeper into the data reveals currently 12 out of 20 preschoolers who qualify for speech services are nonverbal.
Weakley County preschool and special education teachers have joined the SLPs to “turn up the volume” on the issue of early childhood communication. They are launching a new campaign – including online resources and ongoing awareness articles to encourage parents and caregivers to “Take Time to P.A.U.S.E. with Your Young Child.”
Director of Special Education for Weakley County Schools Deborah Perkins convened groups to dig deeper into the increased number of children with communication issues. The consensus of teachers and pathologists is that one contributing factor is the increase in time spent in front of screens.
“Communication disorders are treatable, and some can even be prevented if identified early. Weakley County Schools already collaborates with families on individual education plans when needed. But we would like to assist in prevention by calling attention to fact that even when parents and caregivers offer ‘educational apps’ for children to engage with on phones and tablets, there is a danger that the learning offered is not age appropriate.”
The yearlong emphasis on P.A.U.S.E. asks caregivers to Pay attention to how much time your child is spending in front of a screen; Assess if your child is meeting developmental milestones; Utilize the team of professionals – pediatricians, the health department, schoolteachers and specialists – for help; Save smartphones and tablets for learning activities you can do together; and Engage in play that promotes conversations.
Informative articles and important links such as those to developmental milestones which will help caregivers make note of red flags are already appearing on weakleyschools.com and will be disseminated throughout the campaign. Presentations are planned as well.
Communication is one of several categories of skill-based milestones. Others include fine motor skills, gross motor skills, socialization, adaptive skills, and cognitive or thinking and memory skills. Weakley County preschool teachers recommend the following sites as checklists:
To follow up on concerns, they suggest referring to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/concerned.html.
The Week of the Young Child® is an annual celebration sponsored by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), the world’s largest early childhood education association. This year’s observance is April 2-8.
Recognizing that the early childhood years (birth through age 8) lay the foundation for children’s success in school and later life, NAEYC established the week to focus public attention on the needs of young children and their families and to recognize the early childhood programs and services that meet those needs.
Karen Fowler, PreK Family School Consultant for Weakley County Schools, helps to organize the week’s activities including themed days and presentations such as the one scheduled for the School Board during the monthly meeting Thursday evening.
The themes for each day include Music Monday with Sharon and Martin preschoolers making instruments and musical guests like Brent Arnold in Greenfield and SRO Jonathan McDowell in Gleason.
Tasty Tuesday focuses on treats like homemade ice cream, fruit salad, or in Gleason, smoothies with WCS Nutrition Director Trista Snider.
Work Together Wednesday has Dresden building with balls and sticks, Greenfield making bubbles, Gleason and Martin pulling and planting, and Sharon enjoying a chance to “Touch at Truck.”
Artsy Thursday will underscore the importance of art with preschoolers as Fowler videos her work with Dresden on process art and Greenfield students spend time with art teacher Jaquelynn Dortch while Gleason learns from Paige Espy. Sharon will paint outside. Martin Primary will get creative as they make kites.
Family Friday encourages families to join in the learning and fun with either bubbles, kite flying, snacks, pizza, or picnics according to the location.
Details on time are available from preschool teachers and online at weakleyschools.com.