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Sensory testing

Dorothy Westerman
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Feb 11/05) - Checking vision and testing hearing and speech are an important first step for children entering kindergarten, says a Yellowknife public health nurse.

"Each year, we offer a pre-kindergarten screening program. Between January and December, we do this to detect any issues before they go into school in the fall," Amy Lea said.

The testing is designed for five-year-olds.

Children who may have difficulty seeing the chalkboard or hearing in a group situation will be detected early and sent for further testing, she said.

"It's a way of making sure that if there are any issues, they are detected prior to entering school so students can have all the support they need," Lea said.

During the vision portion of the testing, a child will be shown various shapes while covering each eye.

"Ability to see distance certainly affects students when they get into school," she said.

The hearing test segment involves the student wearing headphones attached to an audiometer and indicating when he or she hears a tone.

"With hearing, sometimes it is difficult to detect and it may affect them in a group. They may not hear what is going on in a classroom."

Hearing loss can also impact a child's speech, she said.

During the speech assessment, the child is asked to repeat words to see how well he or she articulates and understands.

Also as part of the testing is immunization, Lea said.

Because the public health team tries to make the testing a positive experience, Lea said most children enjoy the various segments of the testing.

"Sometimes it's a bit intimidating, but we try to put them at ease and do the testing," she said.

The appointments last an average of 45 minutes, at which time a parent can ask other health-related questions, she said.

Parent Cassandra English brought her son Alexander for testing during one of the recent sessions.

"I didn't know what to expect, but it was very basic," she said.

Alexander found placing the building blocks into a small truck the most fun.

"I liked it," he said after the testing was completed.