Of the Baker City Herald

Although it looked like it was all in fun, there was a definite purpose to the hopping and skipping and drawing and cutting going on last week at the Extension Building.

Thirty-five children, ages 3 to 5, were participants in the Union-Baker Education Service Districts annual preschool screening Wednesday and Thursday.

The Child Find project is designed to identify children who might have developmental delays, according to Sherri King, program manager for the ESDs Early Intervention-Early Childhood Special Education.

King is enthusiastic about the program, which provides free help for children and guidance for their parents. Last weeks screening session, which has for the past few years been held at the Early Intervention classrooms on the Brooklyn School grounds, was moved to the Extension Building this year. The event was expanded to include a Parent Resource Fair.

Representatives of a variety of agencies and programs were on hand to meet with parents and to provide information. Participants included MayDay, Adult and Family Services, Child Care Resource and Referral, Calling on Moms, Transadvocacy, Self-Directed Services for Developmentally Delayed, Services to Children and Families and the Baker County Health Department.

A $500 grant provided through the American Association of University Women helped pay for the expanded program, King said.

Thirteen staff members from the Early Intervention and Head Start programs helped screen the children with the help of 16 teen volunteers from the community.

A story time and coloring area was offered to occupy siblings of the children being screened, King said.

Each preschooler spent about an hour in the screening process, which included a transition station to help prepare them for being away from their parents during the session.

The screening is available for all children. They are evaluated in the areas of vision, hearing, gross motor skills, language and fine motor skills.

This is for everyone who wants to know where their child is developmentally and especially for those who have concerns, King said.

The programs goal is to get them where they need to be before they start school, she added.

Anyone with concerns about their childs development is encouraged to call the ESD at any time, King said. The number is 523-5801.

Free services are offered if needed as determined by the screening. That might include physical or occupational therapy, or speech and hearing services. The children could be referred to the Head Start or Early Intervention programs or might be provided services in their homes, King said.

More screenings for children from birth to age 5 will be scheduled in September, she said.

Anyone may make a screening referral, King added. That could include a neighbor or family friend, a preschool teacher or a grandparent. Parents must give their permission before the screening takes place, however.

Its nice to see people getting help, she said. Thats what were here for its the kids, and to link the parents with things that will help.

All of the agencies and programs that serve families have the same common goal: How can we best help this family succeed, she said.