The Early Childhood Council of Hillsborough County Inc. (ECC) was formed in 1983 with a focus on identifying and addressing service gaps for young children with disabilities. ECC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit funded by the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County. Because of the funding ECC receives, it is able to provide services without imposing a financial burden on the family.
Greg Van Pelt, clinical director for ECC, said, “Our core areas of focus are supporting inclusion in the childcare community, access to early childhood developmental screening and supporting workforce capacity through professional development.”
Access to developmental screening is important. One in five children will develop some form of delay or disability prior to kindergarten. According to Van Pelt, “A developmental screening is a way of checking in on a child’s milestone progress and can be the very first opportunity to identify possible delays in development and then respond through guidance, early intervention services and support.”
Screening is done in the key domains of speech and language, hearing, vision, cognitive capacity, motor skills and social-emotional development.
Van Pelt said, “It is never too early. Screening can be started as early as 1 month old and have intervals going through 5 and a half years old. The beauty of screening is that you do not have to wait to have a concern. You just need to be curious about where your child is developmentally and about what the continued path of development may look like.”
He added, “Sometimes, screening is not addressed until closer to 3 years of age, when concerns in development become more visible. If we wait too long, then there are so many potential opportunities that have been missed.”
With screening, you can celebrate developmental progress, and the caregiver knows what to expect and prepare for moving forward. Regular screening can identify potential hiccups as early as possible and put a plan in place to better support the child’s needs.
Van Pelt said, “Good screening empowers our families by arming them with information, involving them in the path forward and validating them as being the expert of their own child.”
ECC has a full screening calendar each month through July. On Thursday, June 15, a screening will be offered at the Children’s Board Family Resource Center in Plant City. Parents can start an Ages and Stages Questionnaire through an online portal. Both the calendar and portal can be accessed at www.ecctampabay.org.