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New Screening Program Designed to Catch At-Risk Behaviors Early

By Joyce Kryszak


Buffalo, NY – The Community Health Foundation of Western and Central New York is launching a new initiative in May that will screen young children for early behavior and development problems.

The Foundation commissioned a study that found at-risk behavior in pre-school children is a growing epidemic in the region. It's estimated a full forty percent of children enter school already doomed for failure. And believe it or not, suspensions from kindergarten are not uncommon - especially in urban schools. Ann Monroe is president of the Foundation. She said the behavioral problems are not surprising in a region plagued with high poverty.

"There are a lot of issues facing our families, especially in our cities, related to poverty, lack of education, an environment that isn't conducive to children being prepared to learn," said Monroe.

The $300,000, two-year program will attempt to identify and tackle problems in children under five. The pilot is modeled after programs in other states that have been successful. Six pediatric services - in Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Lockport and Orchard Park will participate.

Martin Hoffman, M.D., is an associate professor of pediatrics for UB and Women and Childrens Hospital. He said doctors will be given the evaluation tools they need to identify a wide range of inter-connected problems.

"Every aspect of development - motor development, language development, social cognitive development, and behavioral development - are all important parts of the early development perspective," said Hoffman. "The screening tool we will be using really touches on all of those."

Once a child is identified with potential problems, the doctor will refer parents to the Early Childhood Direction Center at Children's Hospital. The center will link parents with services and resources where they can get help for their child.

Monroe said accepting referrals is voluntary. But she said the program is designed to encourage parents to particiapte by dealing with the issue sensitively.

"A lot of it has to do with how these issues are approached with the parents," said Monroe. "That's why for the six pediatric centers there will be some very specific skill training for them and their staff about how to broach these subjects with parents to make them as comfortable as possible."

Monroe said if the pilot program is successful it could be expanded as a standard tool for pediatricians throughout the region.

Click the audio player above to hear Joyce Kryszak's story now or use your podcasting software to download it to your computer or iPod.