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First Five aims to identify developmental delays, direct families to resources

Coordinator says she would like to see more primary care physicians using First Five screening tools in HC

First Five coordinator Roberta Sloat hopes to see more primary care physicians in Henry County using First Five screening tools that detect developmental delays in children from birth to five-years-old.

Sloat, who presented at the Board of Health on Tuesday, June 25, said she is currently receiving referrals from four providers in Henry County, but she would like to see that number increase. First Five is a statewide program provided to Henry County through Washington County Public Health.

Sloat said that more families decline First Five intervention in Henry County than in Washington County. She did not say why this may be.

Nationally, only one out of every six children with developmental delays are identified before they reach school age, Sloat said. The earlier a developmental delay is addressed through early intervention, the easier it is for that child to receive the help they need to prepare for school and achieve their full potential, she said.

Without the use of screening tools, only 20 percent of children with mental health problems and 30 percent of children with developmental delays are identified, according to First Five. By using First Five’s standardized screening tools, 80 to 90 percent of children with mental health problems and 70 to 80 percent of children with developmental disabilities are identified.

Children identified earlier are able to benefit from intervention strategies aimed at better preparing children for kindergarten entry, Sloat said.

When a child is flagged as having a concern through First Five screening, Sloat will meet with the family in person or over the phone to direct them to resources to get the child early intervention. She also will identify concerns such as transportation, housing issues or food insecurity. Finally, she closes the loop with the primary care physician by letting them know what services she offered the family.

Sloat tries to only stay involved with families for up to six months, although sometimes it’s longer depending on what issues the family is dealing with, she said.

“The program is intended to be more of a care coordination than a hands-on service,” Sloat said.

Sloat also has been meeting with families at WIC clinics and offering screening tools there.

For a child to be screened, parents or guardians must complete the First Five referral and consent form with basic parent and family information including their name, address, phone number and parent or guardian signature.