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Back to School Hearing and Vision Screenings – S1 E15

It’s back to school time in Arizona! If you have children in preschool or kindergarten, one of the many things you’ll get information about is hearing and vision screenings. The free sensory screenings will help alert you to issues and prepare a healthcare and education plan to help your child succeed.

Ashley Neves, Sensory Screening Program Manager at the Arizona Department of Health Services, joins host Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez to explain everything you need to know about these important screenings.

Podcast Resources:
ADHS Sensory Screening Program
Guest: Ashley Neves
Strong Families AZ
Host: Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez
Podcast Credits:

host Host: Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez is the Program Director for the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program at the Arizona Department of Health Services.

host Guest: Ashley Neves is the Sensory Screening Program Manager at the Arizona Department of Health Services.


[00:00:00] Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: Welcome to The Parenting Brief. I’m your host, Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez, an Arizona working mom and Program Director for the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program at the Arizona Department of Health Services. This podcast is designed just for you, a busy parent or caregiver, looking for information and advice to keep up with your growing kids.

[00:00:27] Finding the right parenting tips can be difficult. [00:00:30] So we’re here with the parenting pros and experts to help you be the best parent you can be.

[00:00:44] Thank you for tuning in for another episode of The Parenting Brief. Here in Arizona, kids are going back to school. It’s a busy time of year for parents, teachers, and kids, especially if this is your first time sending your preschooler or kindergartner to school, there’s a lot going [00:01:00] on. But don’t worry,

[00:01:01] that’s why we’re here. When it comes to the back to school season, one of the many things you will soon get information about will be the in school vision and hearing screenings for your children. These tests are done to catch any issues with eyesight or hearing. If there are issues, the screenings give you the information you need to address these health care concerns early.

[00:01:20] And maybe even adjust education plans so your child can succeed in school. Up next, learn about back to school hearing and vision screenings and what the results [00:01:30] can mean for you and your child.

[00:01:36] Joining me today to share details about in-school hearing and vision screening is Ashley Neves, the Sensory Screening Program Manager at the Arizona Department of Health Services. I’m so glad you can join us today Ashley.

[00:01:49] Ashley Neves: Thanks for having me, Jessica, I’m glad to be here.

[00:01:52] Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: There are so many things that are happening during this back to school time,

[00:01:54] and it can feel really overwhelming for parents who might be receiving information for the first time [00:02:00] about some of the screenings, assessments and tests that take place while their kids are at school or childcare. It’s not just about academics. Can you tell us a little bit about what the sensory screenings are and who conducts the screenings?

[00:02:13] Ashley Neves: So when school starts, you’re going to get information from the school about the sensory screening program, specifically hearing and vision screening for your kid. Typically the sensory screening program includes both hearing and vision screenings, and we conduct these because loss of hearing and [00:02:30] vision can impact a child’s academic, social interaction, literacy, and overall development.

[00:02:35] And so early identification and intervention can increase the child’s academic success by developing the foundation that can allow every child the opportunity to be successful. So not everyone can conduct these sensory screens. Currently they’re done by ADHS certified screeners, which are typically done by your child’s school nurse or those who currently work at the school or preschool.

[00:02:58] Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: So I know for me prepping [00:03:00] my kiddos for things they may experience for the first time really helps them feel more comfortable and less anxious. That also makes me feel more comfortable and less anxious. What takes place during a screening and how can parents help prepare their kiddos for this experience?

[00:03:14] Ashley Neves: So parents already have gone through those vision and hearing screenings. If they think back to when they were in school, they might remember those headphones that they had to wear and they had to listen for a tone and maybe raise their hand or let someone know that they heard the tone. [00:03:30] And that’s what a hearing screening is.

[00:03:32] Most often they’re conducted with what’s called the pure tone audiometer, which is those headphones that go over the child’s ear, the ADHS certified screener presses the button, and then the child can raise their hand. And so just letting them know that that’s what’s going to be going on, but also the ADHS certified screener lets the kids know as well.

[00:03:50] They talk to the kids if they’re hesitant or are concerned about what’s going on. And then also they include maybe playing a game with it as well. For [00:04:00] vision screening, parents have gone through this too if they’ve gone to like an optometrist or ophthalmologist, it’s basically just reading charts. So the child will do the same thing,

[00:04:07] they’ll stand back a certain distance away from the chart. They’ll get a fun little occluder to put over their eye and then asked to read the chart, the letters or symbols, and that’s how they kind of participate. So our screeners are able to incorporate kind of a game play as well if the child is hesitant or if they’re just not having it at all that day, or they’re not having a great day, [00:04:30] our screeners come back to do basically a secondary screening to capture all those kids who maybe weren’t there, or maybe weren’t as cooperative as they were on the first go around.

[00:04:40] Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: Are these screenings that happen at the school, are they mandatory for all children to participate?

[00:04:45] Ashley Neves: The screenings are mandatory, specifically hearing screening. That is state mandated in the state of Arizona. And that’s typically in preschoolers, kindergarteners and first graders. And then it goes every other year after that.

[00:04:59] For vision [00:05:00] screening, it is not required in the state of Arizona. Most schools are still doing vision screenings because they recognize the importance of conducting that. The screenings are a hundred percent free. So parents don’t have to worry about any type of cost associated with the hearing or vision screenings.

[00:05:19] Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: And when you say that they’re mandatory, is the school mandated to at least provide it, or are students mandated to participate?

[00:05:26] Ashley Neves: Schools are mandated to provide it. There is the [00:05:30] option to opt out. Parents are given information prior to the hearing or vision screening being conducted. It depends on the school or school district they’re in whether they get a flyer or an email, but the parents or guardians of the student will know in advance that a hearing screening or vision screening is going to be conducted. And they are given options to opt out if they so choose.

[00:05:52] Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: If the results indicate a vision or hearing concern, how is the parent informed and what are their next steps?

[00:05:58] Ashley Neves: If the child [00:06:00] fails or does not pass their initial screen. The screener will come back 10 to 30 days after that first screening was conducted just to retest, because again, the child could have a bad day. They didn’t wake up or maybe it’s too early in the morning for them, or they’re just not on it that day. So the screener will come back a second time. They’ll do a second evaluation to double check to make sure, was the first screening, just like, you know, a fluke and the child just missed it? And the second screening will provide them with more [00:06:30] information.

[00:06:30] If the child does not pass the second screening, it is the responsibility of the screener to inform the school. And the school will contact the parent or guardian to basically inform them that the child needs further evaluation by a specialist because screening is just prevention. We want to see if there’s any kids who are at risk and then refer them to a specialist who can then diagnose them

[00:06:52] if they have any vision or hearing problems. The parent should then contact a specialist to get the child evaluated. And [00:07:00] then after they go through a specialist and they receive results of that evaluation, they should then send those results back to the school to make sure that they’ve you know, followed up with everything.

[00:07:11] Now, if the parent, for some reason, forgets or, you know, life gets crazy and hectic, the school will contact the parent or guardian within 45 calendar days of that second evaluation to see if they’ve been able to see a specialist.

[00:07:25] Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: So as parents are listening to this and may have more questions about [00:07:30] the sensory program, where can they go for more information?

[00:07:33] Ashley Neves: So the ADHS website is a great resource. We have all of our information there through the Office of Children’s Health. Our website has information about sensory equipment, the type of sensory equipment we use. It also shows the reporting information that schools are required to do as well as the rules for both vision and hearing screening are on there as well.

[00:07:56] Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: Awesome. Well, thank you, Ashley so much for all of your helpful advice today. [00:08:00]

[00:08:00] Ashley Neves: Thank you for having me, Jessica.

[00:08:08] Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: We have more information about preschool and kindergarten sensory screenings in the show notes while you’re there, give us a follow on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you like to listen to your podcasts. And share the episode with the moms or expecting moms in your life. Until next time, this is Jessica.

[00:08:25] You’ve got this, Mom![00:08:30]

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