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Canada Issue 759

Solid Starts

Children’s Health Checklist
How does your child's health check out? Find out more.

Even kids know the importance of a good foundation (when it comes to building blocks and couch cushion forts, that is). When it comes to starting a new school year, the benefits of having a solid base are obvious too.

How kids develop language skills, hear sounds and see the world around them can have a profound impact on the way they learn in school and experience life. Some simple checks to ensure they are putting their best foot forward—in addition to those overpriced shoes you were talked into buying—may help in the long run.

Check: Speech
Calculus may have done us in, but when it comes to being interested in school and learning, kids are hard-wired to love it in the early years. From the time they’re born, kids are instinctively obsessed with new horizons. Children who show frustration with, or don’t want to go to, school, or who exhibit poor memory, difficulty finding the right words to express something, or withdrawn behavior may be demonstrating signs of a learning disability.

There is a significant link between literacy, language development and learning disabilities so if you have concerns, talk with your child’s teachers right away and source out professionals to get an assessment. If deemed necessary, preventative treatment in the form of speech therapists, occupational therapists and others, can make a big impact. It’s important to note that while we, as parents, often feel scared or embarrassed by a learning disability, children don’t usually feel the same stigma and are much more open to early intervention and guidance.

Check: Immunization Records
Whatever your thoughts are about immunization (for or against), when school starts, you’ll be asked for a copy of their inoculation records (particularly if they are starting preschool/JK or transferring to a new school). Now is a good time to ensure you have their yellow card up-to-date, or obtain the required documentation if your child is not fully immunized for medical, religious or personal reasons (this last one requires a lawyer or notary public).

Some school boards, including the country’s largest, the Toronto District School Board, have made it easy with an Online Vaccine Reporting site that enables parents to go online and update their child’s immunization status, eliminating the need to continually provide new paperwork to the school.

For a list of required and recommended vaccines, visit your school board’s website, or Canada’s Public Health Agency.

Check: Ears
Canada’s policy of screening at birth for hearing defects helps identify over 2000 children a year born with hearing loss. Post-natal causes, however, can range from extreme wax build-up to recurrent ear infections, inner-ear abnormalities, family history, prolonged high fevers, meningitis, mumps or measles (to name a few). We hear you. It’s a laundry list of potential hearing impairment suspects.

How do you know if there is a problem? Experts agree on some common cues for kids but note that the presence of one or more symptoms does not necessarily indicate a problem. Difficulty locating sounds, speaking too softly or loudly, articulation problems, speech and language delays, and difficulty understanding what people are saying might all be indicators.

Many school boards across the country provide free or low cost screening in school. If you already have your own suspicions, ask your pediatrician for a referral to an audiologist.

Check: Eyes
Approximately 86 per cent of children start school without ever having had an eye examination and a surprising one in four children has an undetected vision problem that can interfere with their ability to read and learn.

If you notice your child holding reading materials too close to his eyes, constantly rubbing his eyes, continuously squinting, or with irritated or teary eyes, it might be time for a visit to an optometrist.

You’ll have enough challenges those first few weeks of school (like forgetting permission slips and who won’t eat cheese for snack), so don’t go looking for new ones. But it’s just good to know there’s help out there if you need it. Tested by Alison R., Toronto

Tagged under kids, health, school, september
First published 2011.09.06