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It's a situation countless parents of young children encounter — you suspect your child could be hyperactive only to be told by relatives to relax.

"He's just a boy," they say. 

Or you've tried potting training for months and are getting nowhere. Is that normal? 

Now local parents have an easy place to go to with those questions. A new resource is available for parents of children 5 and under to assess if their child's development, behavior and learning are normal, and possibly flag delays. 

It's called Help Me Grow and uses a set of two questionnaires that parents complete online or by phone. First 5 Kern recently launched the program with the goal of increasing the rate of early childhood screening, which in Kern County is currently about 15 percent to 20 percent. (By comparison, about 60 percent to 70 percent of kids in Orange County undergo the screening.)

The whole idea is to catch mild to moderate delays or issues in young children before the child starts kindergarten, and to help connect parents with community resources that can help.

"The earlier you catch it, the easier it is to get a child back on track," said Kevin Bartl, a spokesman for First 5 Kern. "Once the child enters the school system, (problems) become more pronounced. A lot of times in a school setting, simple things get exacerbated."

The assessment consists of two tests, one for developmental progress and another for social-emotional progress. Each takes about 10 to 15 minutes to complete, Bartl said. Once parents complete the questionnaire, it is sent to a First 5 care coordinator who scores it, Bartl said. Parents are notified of the results within a few days.

Parents of children who score below their age level for development are personally contacted and referred to resources in the community, which parents are often unaware of without help from a knowledgeable source. 

Help Me Grow began in Connecticut and has spread to 28 states since then, according to the Help Me Grow National Center website, with the goal of screening children and helping parents of those children better navigate the often muddled network of resources for families that exist.

In many states, the program is offered through a statewide entity but in California it is being overseen by the county-level First 5 agencies, which were created through a voter initiative and uses tobacco tax money to fund programs for children 5 and under.  

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(1) comment

ISpy

Now we need an app to tell us whether our kids are 'normal.'

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