Edna Colon thought her 28-month-old son was shy and that’s why he wasn’t talking as much as other children his age.
But the early childhood specialists at Ibero American Action League thought something more might be going on. They referred Colon to Get Ready to Grow, a program that provides free services to check on progress in children from ages 1 to 5.
“When they gave me the results, I was kind of surprised,” she said. “It came out that he needed help with speech and language. If it had not been for the program, I would not have noticed. … There’s a lot of parents out there that think their child is OK, they don’t need services.”
Get Ready to Grow, a collaboration of health, non-profit and philanthropic organizations, is managed by the Children’s Institute. Since 2015, it has worked primarily with day cares and school districts to identify children who need extra help with speech and language, movement, social and emotional behavior and their ability to think and reason.
Now, Get Ready to Grow is making its pitch directly to families through a campaign called Let Their Greatness Grow.
“We want to ask you to talk to parents, talk to family members, help them become aware of the importance of reaching out to get these comprehensive screenings,” Ann Marie White, executive director of the Children’s Institute said at a news conference Aug. 19.
According to the Children’s Institute, only 20% to 30% of children with health, behavioral and development problems are identified and receive appropriate services. While pediatricians take note of height and weight at well-child visits, they may not have the time to assess social and emotional development.
The Children’s Institute will measure the success of Let Their Greatness Grow by the number of calls for information and the number of children screened.
The Children’s Institute also is launching a program to make health care providers aware of Get Ready to Grow.
But a major emphasis of Let Their Greatness Grow is to raise awareness among family members, the child’s first and strongest advocate.
Colon and Nadiah Tucker, whose children attend Ibero programs together, knew about Get Ready to Grow because of their involvement with the community-based organization.
They were asked to share their stories to encourage parents who may not have that connection or know about resources to seek help that will ensure their children are on track and ready to learn when they reach kindergarten.
“It’s important that we don’t deny the fact that sometimes our kids need extra services,” said Tucker.
Tucker said she was nervous about an evaluation for her 28-month-old daughter.
“I didn’t never deny the fact that my, my child needed a screening in the evaluation. But as you go through the process, it kind of, as a parent, makes you feel good that you did what you needed to do for your child. I don’t ever want to be a barrier to her because of my thoughts of, oh, she’s perfect.”
Tucker said a different issue was identified and her daughter will have a dental procedure that may also require additional services.
Get Ready to Grow screenings are performed in a brightly colored coach-style bus decorated with cartoon characters and written in Spanish and English.
“I like the bus because it has the letters in English and in Spanish,” Colon said. “So both languages for the parents that don’t speak English. … I’m thankful to Grow. I love the name of the program because it’s really helping the children to grow.”
To learn more about Get Ready to Grow or to see about an evaluation for a child, go to www.GetReadytoGrow.org or call (585) 295-1008.