This is a guest blog created by Robert Glowacki, CEO Easter Seals Southeast WI
Do you believe every child starts kindergarten ready and able to learn? You might be surprised to know that every year we as a nation fail to identify 1.45 million children under the age of five who are at risk for developmental delays or other disabilities. These are children who enter school with learning and health issues that have a lasting, negative effect on their ability to learn and succeed. One notable example is among children with autism, who are often not diagnosed until school, and lose four years of early optimal treatment.
The reason? Parents don’t know where to turn for answers when they suspect something isn’t quite right with their young child and too many communities do not provide the early detection, direct services and interventions critical for vulnerable young children to become ready for school. Our children are falling through the cracks and behind their peers before they ever have a chance. In Milwaukee County alone, every week nearly 50 children are identified with possible delays in development or 2500 children per year!
At Easter Seals, we provide therapy and family support for these families and little children. Over 250 families receive speech, occupational and physical therapies every year from our trained and dedicated staff members. We know the needs our families have and are very concerned about those who do not get the services children need to succeed.
We need Congress and State legislatures across the country to prioritize the needs of vulnerable young children in their communities. Shrinking budgets are forcing many states to limit the number of young children who can receive early intervention services, even as research shows long-term benefits to the child and cost-savings to our nation. The National Institute on Early Education Research reports that children who receive high quality early education and care “are less involved in crime and delinquency. They also earn more as adults and are less likely to become dependent on welfare.” The first five years of life are the most crucial in a young child’s development and we know that investing today will pay dividends in the future.
One example of the power of appropriate services is our National Easter Seals Ambassador, Kyle Mayer from Greendale. Kyle was not succeeding early in life. There were problems at home. It was Kyle’s grandmother who recognized the early signs of autism and told Kyle’s mother that he needed help. Kyle was eventually diagnosed with autism. He started receiving therapies through Easter Seals and today he is in a regular 2nd grade classroom with his peers. Early intervention had powerful results for Kyle.
Join us in supporting kids like Kyle. Add your name to the 42,000 signatures on our online petition at www.makethefirstfivecount.org. Tell Congress that ALL children deserve the best start in life.
CEO, Easter Seals Southeast Wisconsin