Children’s screening tool exported to other countries

The president of the NDDS board, Marg Peterson, with Fran Couchie, Nipissing District Developmental Screen board vice president. “This checklist constantly amazes us. We thought it was just for North Bay back then. Now we get inquiries from around the world,” says Couchie.

BY KATHY STACKELBERG

NORTH BAY: Amber Merkel of North Bay is a first-time mom to four-month-old Archer, and admits it can be difficult to know if her baby is developing at the level he should be. A free developmental checklist created by Nipissing District Developmental Screen (NDDS), a North Bay non-profit organization, is a helpful tool she uses to track her child’s progress.
In 2007 the tool was licensed with the Ministry of Children and Youth Services, allowing parents in Ontario free access. In 2014 it became a World Vision pilot project in Jerusalem/West Bank and has now been expanded to Sudan.
The president of the NDDS board, Marg Peterson, was working as a nurse with the Infant and Child Development Services (under the Nipissing Parry Sound District Children’s Aid Society) 25 years ago when the idea for a children’s developmental screening tool came about.
“A group of professional women working in various early childhood intervention services, was concerned with the number of young children with significant developmental concerns who were not being identified earlier,”recalled Peterson.
“We knew we needed a tool because too often we were hearing parents say, oh he’s just a boy, he will talk when he’s ready to talk or that type of thing. Or parents expressed they were concerned their child was behind other children of the same age. Creating this tool became our dedicated lunchtime project and it took two full years to do it, because we wanted to make it simple yet useful, and user friendly for parents.”
The checklist is based around the immunization schedules for children from one month to six years of age. It works on a yes-or-no format, where a “no” is a flag for parents to follow up on their child’s developmental abilities. At one month of age for example, the checklist has just four basic questions. Does your child:
• Look at you?
• Startle to loud or sudden noise?
• Calm down when comforted?
• Suck well on the nipple?
Each checklist features a sheet of tips and activities to enhance a child’s development in emotional, fine motor, gross motor, learning and thinking, self-help, social and communication skills.
“For a first-time mom I just want to make sure that Archer’s on track and, if he’s not, I can follow up and make sure it’s not something that I need to look into further,” said Merkel. “It’s also available on line, which I love and I can download it if I have a concern and just take it right to my health-care professional. It’s very simple to use. It’s short and the info graphics or pictures are super helpful because if you have difficulty understanding what the question means there’s a little sketch to go along with it. I plan to use this right up until my son is six years old just to make sure he is developing properly for his age.”
The checklist comes in paper copy, posters, booklets, a pictorial version and digital version. To celebrate it’s 25th anniversary this year, it’s been rebranded to Looksee Checklist and includes an updated redesigned website. It’s available in French, Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese, Arabic, Farsi, Russian, German, Italian and Mohawk.
The NNDS board is currently working with Indigenous communities in Manitoba and Ontario through the Jordan’s Principle initiative (ensuring all Indigenous children can access the products, services and supports they need) to bring the checklist to First Nations communities.

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