Wednesday, December 13, 2017
News Roundup

ECC's screening program a story worth hearing

My mom used to tell everyone I didn't really talk as a toddler.

Me? Not talking? Yeah, I also struggled to believe it.

Naturally, she worried about my reluctance to utter words and took me to the doctor more than once. He insisted, however, I just didn't have much to say.

Erika Lindsey received similar advice about her son two years ago. Cooper, who is 2 1/2, didn't say much and even though some said he would talk when he was ready, she and her husband, Robert, grew concerned.

"I wasn't horribly worried, but I was worried," said Lindsey. "Everybody said, 'Kids talk at different ages, he's just not ready.' The pediatrician never saw anything, but we later learned they wouldn't have been able to see it."

A serendipitous moment emerged to make all difference for Cooper. A friend asked Lindsey, a business banking manager for Chase, if she would be interested in serving on the board for the Early Childhood Council of Hillsborough County.

He said she would be an ideal candidate. Was she ever.

After joining the board, Lindsey learned about the council's developmental screening program. She decided to have doctors put Cooper through the battery of tests.

"It's an emotional evaluation and a physical checklist," said Lindsey, now board president for the council. "They measure for emotional milestones, physical milestones. It's a good 2 1/2 hours. It's a hard day.

"It's like having five different doctors' appointments in one setting."

The long day proved worthy. Doctors determined that Cooper suffered from a 95 percent hearing loss that the pediatrician missed because his ears appeared clear but were really blocked.

"Unless you're directly in front of his face, he can't hear you," Lindsey said.

They made the diagnosis on a Friday and Cooper had surgery to insert tubes in his ears the following Monday.

After surgery, he went through a series of infections and his immune system regressed. Eventually, however, he began to work with a speech therapist.

Today, two years later, he talks up a storm.

"You should hear some of the words he uses," Lindsey said, beaming. "He has a huge vocabulary. He didn't really speak until he was 3. Up until the last six months, he was still difficult to understand."

Lindsey feels fortunate, knowing that not every child who goes through similar situations progresses so rapidly.

According to the council, less than half of children who suffer from developmental or behavioral disabilities or speech and language delays are identified as having a problem before school.

When a child begins kindergarten and immediately falls behind because problems have gone untreated, it potentially puts him on a path to a lifetime of challenges.

The council's developmental screening program, in partnership with the Florida Diagnostic and Learning Resources System, annually provides free screening for developmental delays or problems with behavior to approximately 1,800 children up to age 5.

The council also works to help children get needed support after the diagnosis.

Lindsey crystallized the advantages yielded by screening in her story, which she shared at the council's recent spring luncheon. But, she says, "I don't think enough people know about us or our services."

Every parent should be aware of how the screening can change the life of a child. Every mom and dad needs to hear Cooper's story.

That's all I'm saying.

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