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School screening improvements

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P1 Screening: Government therapists Elrita Wade and Teresa Woolridge (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Screenings for children entering government primary schools in September are to be combined for the first time.

Students previously took the assessments for speech and language and occupational and physical therapy, which check their ability and ensure they are age-appropriate, separately.

However, a combined appointment during the summer means intervention can take place sooner and parents are able to be more involved, occupational therapist Teresa Woolridge and speech-language pathologist Elrita Wade told The Royal Gazette.

“Early intervention is a key for us and I think that goes for speech-language as well, so that we can provide those services as early as possible and give the children the best opportunity that they can to succeed or get to their optimal level of functioning,” Ms Woolridge said. “We try to get in there as early as possible so we can prevent any longstanding issues that may come about later on.

The co-ordinator for Government’s OT and PT services explained that they decided to combine the screenings following feedback from last year’s appointments.

“This year is the first year we are doing it that way — it has taken quite a bit of planning.”

According to Ms Wade, about 380 new students will start school this year and the screenings help identify those who would benefit from additional services.

She said: “We’re trying to ensure success in school for the young children entering P1, so we look at your development up to this point, whether you can say the age-appropriate sounds, your language — whether it’s following basic directions, knowing personal information, even your pre-reading skills, your letter sounds, your rhyming ability — those sorts of things.”

Ms Woolridge added that the gross motor and fine motor skills are checked as part of the occupational therapy and physical therapy component, “so those underlying skills that help a child to write, to button up their clothing, to jump, walk — those motor skills we don’t often think about because they come so naturally.”

According to Ms Wade, one of the main benefits of screening during the summer is that parents can attend and see what is involved, while also minimising disruption to children during school hours.

And Ms Woolridge added: “In the schools, it’s just the therapist and the child. The parent may read the handouts that we give or the home exercise programmes but they don’t get to see exactly what we are doing. So it’s a huge plus to have the parents there asking questions.

“At home with the parents or caregivers or loved ones, they are able to follow through with the activities that we give them and they are able to give the most impact for the child.”

Parents are always asked to attend sessions, Ms Woolridge said, adding: “We will make it very easy and just a few steps so they are not overwhelmed.”

If concerns are raised during the screenings, a follow-up appointment is made to determine appropriate intervention services, which can be delivered in or out of school.

“It’s strongly encouraged for the children to take part so that they are at their optimal functioning and if any services are required, we can identify it as soon as possible,” Ms Woolridge added.

The screenings will be held at Success Academy over a two-week period starting on July 3 and take between 20 minutes to an hour — depending on which are needed.

The P1 Screening Committee has attempted to reach out to the families of all new students and arrange appointments. Those who had not been contacted, can reach out to Ms Woolridge on 278-6427 or e-mail P1screening@gov.bm.

Earlier intervention: P1 screening government therapists hope reforms to screening will increase pupils’ chances of success