Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Early Childhood Council celebrates 30th anniversary

APOLLO BEACH — At 20 months, Liam Crawford didn't talk as much as his friends. Later, he turned into a chatterbox but not all his words were as clear as his peers'.

Lauren Crawford knew exactly where to go with her concerns about Liam: the Early Childhood Council of Hillsborough County.

Thanks to ECC screenings, Crawford ultimately learned Liam had a blockage of wax in one ear, which had affected his hearing. ECC also shared her concerns about Liam's speech progression so the almost 3-year-old is monitored to make sure he is on level with other youngsters his age.

"The screening process is an invaluable resource to parents," said Crawford, an Apollo Beach resident and a stay-at-home mom with a master's degree in child development. "You have access to all these health professionals and it's all free."

Stephen C. Martaus is proud of his agency's work over the last 30 years, noting they have screened about 25,000 children. A number of those youngsters were referred for further evaluation.

ECC assessments focus on developmental issues, such as speech and language, hearing, vision, motor skills and cognitive problems or delays. There is no cost for the screenings but youngsters must be under the age of 5. The ECC community screening programs occur once a month.

The goal: to evaluate children at an early age and then get them the help they need, if necessary.

"Early intervention is the key," said Martaus, the ECC's executive director. "We want them to enter kindergarten on the same playing field as any other child."

In Liam's case, ECC staff found a problem with the hearing in his right ear. Crawford then took her son to the pediatrician, who discovered his ear was impacted with wax. After irrigating his ear, Liam's speech improved.

Crawford said she is still concerned about her son's articulation. She said ECC staff will see Liam again once he turns 3, but she has been given ideas on ways to help him between visits.

When Liam struggles with words, such as "frog," ECC staff told Crawford to hold a toy frog in her hand, say "frog," then tell Liam to repeat the word. Something so simple may help his articulation, Crawford said.

Crawford is hoping Liam's next screening with an ECC speech pathologist will give her more answers. She is grateful ECC is available to help young children like Liam.

"If there is an issue," she said, "I would much prefer to catch it early and get it resolved before he starts school."

Crawford and Liam will be special guests at the ECC's 30th anniversary celebration at 7:45 a.m. Thursday at the Mainsail Hotel & Conference Center in Tampa. Lauren Dungy, wife of former Bucs and Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy, will deliver the featured speech. The Dungys' son Jordan also received help from the ECC.

Bay News 9's Josh Linker will emcee the event.

Tickets are $30 in advance and $40 at the door. Tables can be purchased for $275 and seat 10 people. For more information, visit

Monica Bennett can be reached at

About the Early Childhood Council

of Hillsborough County

Established in 1983, the ECC is one of the leading early childhood organizations in the Tampa Bay area, providing information and referral services, prevention and early intervention, training and advocacy to the community. With its long tradition of innovation and strategic planning, the ECC develops programs to meet gaps within early childhood services. For more information, visit

Early Childhood Council celebrates 30th anniversary 02/23/13 [Last modified: Sunday, February 24, 2013 4:50pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Romano: The choice does not have to be poverty or gentrification

    Local Government

    The memories must be protected. The music and the lore, too.

    The owner of Sylvia's Queen of Soul Food is refusing to give the city information on the restaurant's sales as required by his contract to occupy the city-owned Manhattan Casino. The information is needed to calculate whether the nonprofit Urban Development Solutions, headed by Larry Newsome, owes the city more than the $3,000 monthly base rent.
  2. Tests show North Korea earthquake not caused by nuclear test


    SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea's weather agency said a magnitude 3.0 earthquake was detected in North Korea on Saturday around where the country recently conducted a nuclear test, but it assessed the quake as natural.

    People watch a TV news program reporting North Korea's earthquake, at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017. South Korea's weather agency said an earthquake was detected in North Korea on Saturday around where the country recently conducted a nuclear test, but it assessed the quake as natural. The signs read " The weather agency said a magnitude 3.0 earthquake was detected in North Korea." [Associated Press]
  3. New 6.2 magnitude earthquake centered in southern Mexico


    MEXICO CITY — The U.S. Geological Survey says the new earthquake to strike Mexico had a magnitude of 6.2 and was centered in the southern state of Oaxaca.

  4. Bucs players respond to Trump comments on anthem protests


    President Donald Trump shared his thoughts Friday night on NFL players protesting during the national anthem, suggesting that NFL owners should "fire" players who kneel during the anthem in protest. His remarks are alreading drawing responses from many NFL players, including some Bucs.

    Bucs players Mike Evans and Jameis Winston stand with coach Dirk Koetter during the national anthem in a game played in San Diego last season.
  5. Rays morning after: Wilson Ramos showing glimpses of what's possible in 2018


    The real payoff for the Rays signing C Wilson Ramos last off-season will come in 2018, when he can play a full season fully recovered from right knee surgery.

    Catcher Wilson Ramos connects for a two-run single in the fifth inning against the Cubs on Sept. 20, 2017.