This back-to-school essential comes free of charge: Ages & Stages Questionnaires

Eileen Howard Boone

Eileen Howard Boone

I am pleased to introduce Eileen Howard Boone as a guest blogger today. Eileen is a member of the Easter Seals national board and SVP of Corporate Communications and Community Relations for CVS Caremark, and she’s a valued spokesperson for Easter Seals and the Make the First Five Count campaign, too.

The most important back-to-school supply? Health readiness!

By Eileen Howard Boone

As kids across the country prepare for the new school year, many families are focused on making sure their children are equipped with the necessary school supplies that will help them reach their full potential in the classroom. While books, notebooks and pencils are essential, the most important back-to-school supply is health readiness.

As part of our commitment to helping children of all abilities on their path to better health, the CVS Caremark Charitable Trust, in partnership with Easter Seals, is encouraging parents and caregivers nationwide to access the Ages & Stages Questionnaires®, an online health screening tool that enables them to easily track a child’s development through age five.

According to the National Survey of Children’s Health 2007, one in five households with children has a child with a special health care need (PDF) that could benefit from screenings and services. Yet, less than 20 percent of children under the age of five receive a developmental screening. Through Easter Seals’ Make the First Five Count®, a campaign to help ensure children are achieving their developmental milestones during the important first five years of life, we hope to help families successfully bridge this gap by providing free health screenings that are crucial to a child’s future success.

To help provide this tool to all parents and caregivers, last year, we felt it was important to fund access to The Ages & Stages Questionnaires so it would be available online and at no cost.  This year, we were proud to extend that support to make it available in Spanish.

After observing a child, parents and caregivers may take the online survey, and then download their child’s results to discuss with their pediatrician. The survey, which should be completed annually until the child reaches age five, ensures that he or she is not at risk for developmental delays or disabilities and helps indicate if the child is on track to enter kindergarten. The Ages & Stages Questionnaires also offers advice and support from Easter Seals if a child displays developmental delays.

But, why focus on the first five years of a child’s life?

The first years of learning are the most critical in a child’s development. Yet, every year more than one million children with unidentified delays and disabilities enter school with learning and health issues that may put them far behind their peers and have a lasting, negative effect on their ability to succeed. Early intervention services like the Ages & Stages Questionnaires help families identify children’s school-readiness and plan effective and appropriate steps to ensure that children of all abilities are able to reach their full potential.

Regardless of how a child develops, there are ways to help children of all abilities learn through educational play. I encourage parents to take advantage of Easter Seals’ services, access the Ages & Stages Questionnaires and incorporate the following tips for educational play into their families’ daily lives.

  • Read to your kids. In young children, it nurtures an interest in language, words and communication.
  • Play word games.
  • Encourage children to write original stories and illustrate them with their own drawings.
  • Illustrate the value of math by making connections to everyday life with “teachable math moments,” from cutting slices of pizza to getting gas for the car.
  • Praise your children’s academic progress. Tell them that you are proud of their efforts. When students are confident in their abilities, they enjoy learning.

We at the CVS Caremark Charitable Trust wish families with children of all abilities a happy and healthy start to the school year!


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