Jackson Andell, age 3, is an active, happy boy who knows what he likes and how to ask for it.
He likes to play with Thomas the Train engines and helps his brother Pierce, 4, set up the tracks. He also plays with race cars, loves to hear his mother read out loud, pours his own milk and puts on his shoes. But Jackson doesn’t talk much.
This worried his parents, Jennifer, a nursing student/hospital worker, and father Michael, a salesman, who think he is as smart as can be, but they know he will have to use speech to be successful in kindergarten.
Jackson does communicate. He points to what he wants, understands everything that is said to him and mimics the sounds that his sister Peyton, 7, makes for him, such as the “sss” sound for snake.
Following the recommendation of their pediatrician, the Andells took Jackson to the Meramec Valley School District’s Parents as Teachers (PAT) 3- and 4-year-old screening several weeks ago to see what he needed to catch up on before he starts kindergarten next year.
“That’s what screening is all about,” said Nancy Hotze, PAT director. “Young kids do catch up when they get the early training.”
Preschool developmental screening tests identify understanding, speech and motor development in preschoolers to determine whether students need help with developmental delays.
The screening eases the minds of parents and identifies the programs that help preschool children kick-start the formal school process.
Jackson was assigned a place in the district’s Title I preschool program. He has already gotten on the bus and gone to school seven days.
“Once he’s here in the building I think he’s fine, but we still have some teary moments when he has to leave me and get on the bus,” his mother said. “I think he may be adjusting better than I am.”
On the morning of Sept. 13, Jackson accompanied his parents and brother Pierce to the Community School where Pierce was screened on areas that would make him successful in kindergarten.
Jackson saw his teacher in the hallway and responded with an infectious smile when she spoke to him about his brother Pierce.
“He’s been telling us about you,” she said.
“Bubby,” Jackson said and shook his head signifying agreement.
Pierce also was a late talker, but one day started speaking in complete sentences and has not stopped talking.
Pierce said he thought his screening went OK. He was asked to put together logo blocks which he thought he did well.
“I’m good at that,” he said. “I’m good at playing.”
“Pierce can be stubborn,” his father Michael said. “He doesn’t like to write letters. He’ll count to 10 and stop even though he can count higher.”
Screenings for youngsters like Pierce and Jackson can do one of two things — ease the minds of parents that their child is on on target or it can identify the need for some special training that students get in the Title I preschool to make sure development is where it needs to be.
“Very young kids do catch up,” Hotze said. “That’s why screening is so valuable. It lets Mom see where the child is in that stage of development and alerts her if there is anything to work on. It helps determine what is needed.”
On the morning Pierce was screened, some 19 other preschoolers were screened.
Children were screened in the areas of motor skills, concepts, language, hearing and vision.
“Because of our limited funding we only screen 3- and 4-year-olds,” Hotze said. “But if a parent of a 5-year-old has some concerns we will screen that child. It’s in everyone’s interest to see if that child qualifies for help before kindergarten.”