"Build a Brain" highlights importance of early screening, improving early education


In the upcoming episode of “Build a Brain” produced by the Studer Community Institute, we look at efforts to build an Early Learning City here in Pensacola.

Guests on this episode include Bruce Watson, executive director of the Escambia County Early Learning Coalition, and MaryAnn Bickerstaff, children’s services director for Arc Gateway.

Watson share the story of the first year of the Grow With Me project to make sure childcare centers are language rich places where learning is supported.

“We’re coming into the second year of Grow With Me,” Watson said. It’s an intensive coaching program to help the providers become better teachers of our youngest children. It uses several tools, including a LENA language analysis device worn by a child during the day in their daycare facility. 

Watson says providers who have been through the program are talking more and being more conscious in their talking. 

“Don’t just change the diaper, talk to the baby while you change the diaper,” Watson said.

Bickerstaff touts the work that Achieve Escambia is doing to raise awareness in the community of the importance of developmental screening for young children.


Achieve is a coalition of business and community leaders focused on the tie between school readiness and ultimately workforce readiness. One thing Achieve has come to focus on is increasing the number of children under 4 who are screened to see if they are meeting their developmental milestones.

“Nationally we know 1 of 6 children in birth to 5 years may have a developmental delay but we’re not finding them,” Bickerstaff said. “One of our first steps was to establish a baseline of the community to find out where we are with that. We’re just at the point of collecting that information, and identifying some of the things we can do to bring information to our community.”

To raise more awareness of this important issue, Achieve is hosting Dr. Paul Dworkin May 22 at WSRE’s Jean and Paul Amos Auditorium.

Dworkin will talk about why early screening matters, and about the journey founding the national version of Help Me Grow. Help Me Grow is a one-stop, one-call center and resource bank in a community that helps parents answer questions about developmental markers, and refer parents to services if they need them. 

Watch our episode here. And learn more about the May 22 event at this link.


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