The Northwest Pennsylvania Rotary District donated $6,000 to Lifesteps to provide screenings for 150 children at six screening events, and the kickoff event saw infants, toddlers and preschoolers filing into the library on April 19.
Evans City was chosen as the first site because it is the hometown of Rotary District 7280 Governor Lee Dyer, who is the first district governor from the borough.
Subsequent child checks will be held twice in Cranberry Township, twice in Indiana, Pa., and once in Kittanning.
Liz Audo, Lifesteps' supervisor of child check screenings, said developmental screeners check those from birth to 5 years old for fine and gross motor skills, speech and language skills, cognitive level and personal and social skills. She said 1,900 children were screened in Butler County last year.
“We make sure the children are developing normally across the board and there are no red flags,” Audo said.
Dyer said Rotary made the donation to Lifesteps in the interest of autism awareness and to carry out Rotary International's focus on mother-and-child health care.
“And this is directly connected to our communities,” Dyer said from his seat at the event's registration table. “I'm delighted it's in Evans City.”
Audo appreciated the turnout Friday, and credited the work of Rotarians in publicizing the event.
She said Rotary sent out 1,250 fliers, put up 100 posters, placed yard signs and submitted announcements for the Evans City bulletin board and website.
“It's been great working with (Rotary),” Audo said.
Screener Sandy Mailloux explained that child check professionals play games and start conversations with toddlers to make an initial connection. She said if a child becomes frustrated, the screener switches the activity.
“We try to keep it fun and relaxed,” Mailloux said. “You don't approach it like a test.”
Melinda Johnston of Cabot brought her 3-month-old niece, Danika Seitz, to the library for a screening.
Screener Tonya Blackann talked to Danika, checked to see if the infant would bat at a rattle and try to pull herself up from a prone position when Blackann held her hands. She also moved an object around Danika's head to see if she followed the object with her eyes.
“She's doing good,” Blackann said as she snuggled the bright-eyed infant.
“I brought her in to see if she was developing normally,” Johnston said. “The (Lifesteps) people are very friendly and nice.”
Davey Wildman, who with his wife, Mary, founded the Autism Society of Butler County in 2002, also attended the child check to distribute information on autism.
Dyer pointed out that Rotary brought Lifesteps' predecessor, the March of Dimes, to Butler in the 1960s after discovering that young polio patients had to travel to the Pittsburgh March of Dimes for physical therapy. Because the therapy was necessary several times per week, Butler families were struggling to get their children to all the sessions they needed.
Audo said the remaining Rotary-sponsored child check screenings are:
n 5 to 8 p.m. May 17 at the Cranberry Township YMCA during Healthy Kids Day
n 10 a.m. to noon June 10 at the Cranberry Township Municipal Center
n 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. May 8 at Early Childhood Wellness Family Fest in Kittanning
n 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Thursday and Tuesday at Christian Playday in Indiana, Pa.
Those interested in scheduling an appointment can call Lifesteps at 800-225-2010.
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