Making sure kids are ready to learn


By Sue Cody


Early Childhood clinic 1“Kindergarten isn’t what it was even 10 years ago,” said Dan Gaffney, Clatsop Kinder Ready coordinator. Making sure children are healthy and ready to learn is a key component of preparing them for success. Two Early Childhood Clinics, for 2- to 5-year-olds, were recently held in Astoria.


“This clinic is helpful to screen kids and identify their strengths and weaknesses before they come to school,” said Astoria School District Superintendent Craig Hoppes.


“If we don’t know their needs, we can’t address them. This screening is a good indicator for addressing those needs.”


Gaffney gathered 75 people to staff the clinics. Retired educators, healthcare workers, Clatsop Community College (CCC) nursing students, parents and others volunteered to offer assistance.


At Astor Elementary School, a gym was alive with activities, children played with colorful toys spread on the floor, nursing students weighed and measured children, while volunteers offered materials on parenting, healthy eating, education and more.


Children were assessed for hearing, physical, visual, developmental, speech and nutritional benchmarks. Referrals were offered for follow-up care, where needed.


Early Childhood Clinic 2Assessments


Students assisted CCC dietician Grace Laman in nutrition assessment.


“Nutritional education for parents and the community is great because most nursing students have children,” said Laura Terrilll, one of those students.


Laman said parents filled out questionnaires before the screening, listing what the family consumed in the previous 24 hours. Other questions involved eating patterns, such as:


• How does your child react to an introduction of a new food?

• Are there developmental difficulties, such as swallowing or chewing?

• What are the parent and child roles?

• Who provides the meal?

• Who decides how much food to provide?

• Do you have a family mealtime, where the family sits down together?


“We want children to eat to their level of hunger,” Laman said. “We don’t insist children clean their plates, but eat until they are full.”


Laman and students offered in-depth nutrition counseling and tips to navigate around picky eaters.


Carolyn Cazee, a nursing instructor said, “It’s very valuable for the nursing students because they don’t see a lot of kids in their clinical settings. The get to take theory from the classroom and use it in practice.”


“Our clinical hours are usually at a hospital, so we rarely work with kids,” said Zachary Water, one of the students. “Actually doing vital signs on children is a good experience for us.”


At the play station, school psychologist Maggie Shumaker said she could see how children engage in play and monitor their behavior.


Being at Astor School also gave kids an opportunity to see the school and get a little feel for how they will adapt, she said.


This is the third year the Early Childhood Clinics have been offered in Clatsop County. The Columbia Pacific Coordinated Care Organization sponsored it three years ago, said Paula Mills, retired executive director of the Northwest Early Learning Hub. Now the Early Learning Hub sponsors the screenings with support from Way to Wellville, Clatsop County and private funds from the Oregon Community Foundation, Mills said.


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