Monday, February 21, 2011

It Just Makes Sense

WaKids. "It just makes sense."

Words spoken by my dear friend Surina Nash, in a joint committee hearing between the Senate and the House earlier this month. I could not have said it better myself.

Last year, as part of my commitment to being a Parent Ambassador with the Washington State Association of Head Start and ECEAP, I was asked to participate as a parent on a team being put together to create the WaKids program. Washington Kindergarten Inventory on Developing Skills (WaKIDS)- is a kindergarten readiness tool that allows families, kindergarten teachers and early learning professionals to gather and share information about incoming kindergarteners. WaKIDS is up and running throughout the 2010-2011 school year in 115 classrooms around the state, with approximately 2,600 kindergarteners. One of those classrooms, also happens to be my daughter Lauryn's class.

It has been an amazing process to see this program from start to fruition. As part of this process, I was asked to testify to the House Education and Early Learning and Human Services Committee as part of the Assessment of WaKids. I gladly was happy to be there, to share my view as a parent.

My daughter Lauryn has the same teacher as my oldest daughter Ashley did. However, their transitions to Kindergarten were different, because of this process. The teacher with Ashley did some of the same things, but that's just because the teacher goes above and beyond her actual teaching duties. This is not the norm. I had told her about this program, and encouraged her to apply to be a "pilot" classroom. When they were picked, I was ecstatic. She was getting handed actual tools and assessments to work with, to go above what she already did independently. When you travel to different schools across Washington State, the process is different. Doesn't it make sense to have a universal tool that connects everyone? To have a standard way of entering the public school system? How can we properly keep track of our children's education, if across the board, it's different? I've never been one for conformity, I like to go against the grain. But when it comes to my children's health, safety, education and well being, I don't mess around.

My daughter Lauryn was diagnosed by this same school district two years prior to entering Kindergarten through their birth-3 preschool screening process as needing an IEP. (Individualized Education Program) She had speech problems, and they required her to attend speech therapy twice a week. With the school district's crazy scheduling of that therapist, (one contracted to provide services) Lauryn rarely saw her. I started looking for other options. Because of having an IEP, she was able to attend our local Head Start program, part of their program requires them to serve 10% of children with disabilities. We were over income, so had it not been for this diagnosis, she would have not been eligible. Through Head Start, she received other assistance. They started with having her see a speech therapist, but soon discovered, that she probably had hearing problems. We were sent for testing, where we discovered that Lauryn was 75% deaf in one ear, and 25% in another. (Her hearing had been a separate issue with our family doctor, but having Head Start on our side, helped us get a diagnosis and treatment.) Lauryn ended up getting tubes in her ears at age 3 1/2. The hearing loss was attributed to fluid in her ears from Eustachian Tube Dysfunction. The tubes cleared up her hearing, and soon, we began to see a huge change in Lauryn. She spent the next year and a half in Head Start preparing for Kindergarten. By the time she graduated from Head Start. She was no longer in need of speech therapy, an IEP, or being labeled as "special needs". 

Through the WaKids program, I was able to meet with her teacher before hand and explain the prognosis. In the school district's file, she was still labeled as needing an IEP, speech therapy and that she would need follow up. The school district had not seen my child in any of their settings for 2 years. In meeting with the teacher, explaining everything we had been through over the time she had been in Head Start, Ms. Jhanson could see that there was nothing "wrong" with my child any longer. Had it not been for us meeting her before school started, and actually having time to talk, and for her to watch my child interact, it could have been months, and a lot of Special Education for them to figure out she was no longer in need of special services. I can't give you a dollar amount, but I know, this saved our district thousands of dollars.

Watching my child become successful in Kindergarten and not struggle has been amazing. I know she has connected with her teacher, and that if there are any problems or issues, the teacher does not hesitate to talk to me. We were able to build a foundation as a working unit in the best interest of my child. Had it not been for this "assessment" piece, I honestly don't know where my child would be right now. She sees both her teacher and I as a team. I see that as being a VITAL piece to my child's education and future. She will not fall through the cracks, or the system if we are all on the same page.

I am also an early learning provider. I know that the WaKids process wants to include all early learning professionals with local school districts to give children the best outcomes they can. Creating partnerships. There is more to early learning than just attending preschool. Daycares who serve children have just as much investment in making sure those transitions to public school are smooth and flawless. We as early learning professionals want to see what is best for all our children. This program isn't just a "kindergarten readiness" tool. It's setting the stage for the future of education.



  1. April... you inspire so many people. Never stop the work that you do and remember that you voice makes changes. It is a pleasure to be in your company.

  2. Thanks Kylee! I wouldn't be where I am without you!