Wetaskiwin youth falling behind in early childhood development

City of Wetaskiwin becomes childhood development advocate

City of Wetaskiwin youth ages zero to six are more at risk and vulnerable than the Alberta average in terms of early childhood development.

The Wetaskiwin Early Years Coalition attended city council’s March 12 meeting to present councillors with the statistics coming from the Early Development Instrument (EDI) survey:

Under physical health and well-being, 77.2 per cent of the province’s youth are deemed on track and 66.1 per cent of City of Wetaskiwin youth are on track. For the province, 10.1 per cent are at risk and 10.4 per cent of the city youth are at risk; 12.7 per cent of the province’s youth are vulnerable while 23.5 per cent of city youth are vulnerable.

With social competence, the province’s youth are 75.6 per cent on track, 15 per cent at risk, and 9.5 per cent vulnerable. The city’s youth are 62.6 per cent, 18.3 per cent, and 19.1 per cent, respectively.

Under emotional maturity, the province’s youth are 74.8 per cent on track, 14.7 per cent at risk, and 10.5 per cent vulnerable. The city’s youth are 61.7 per cent, 22.6 per cent, and 15.7 per cent, respectively.

For language and cognitive development, city youth are 59.1 per cent on track, 13 per cent at risk, and 27.8 per cent vulnerable. The province’s youth are 74.1 per cent on track, 15.4 per cent at risk, and 10.5 per cent vulnerable.

Under communication skills and general knowledge, the province’s youth are 68.2 per cent on track, 16.4 per cent at risk, and 15.3 per cent vulnerable. The city’s youth are 58.3 per cent, 15.7 per cent, and 26.1 per cent, respectively.

Coalition representatives Niki Tune, family program co-ordinator with Wetaskiwin Community Learning Program, and Brianne Peshko, school health facilitator with Alberta Health Services, informed councillors statistics are also available for the County of Wetaskiwin and the Town of Millet, with numbers closer or in some cases better than the provincial averages.

“Something is happening in the City of Wetaskiwin,” said Tune.

For the coalition, the areas of most concern are emotional maturity, communication skills and general knowledge, and social competencies.

The EDI survey is completed by Kindergarten teachers during the second half of the school year.

“This isn’t about individual child development, it reflects as a community,” said Peshko.

Tune and Peshko, speaking for the coalition, say there is a need to address the concerns, as 90 per cent of brain develops between the ages of zero and six years.

“Wetaskiwin’s children are our future … We all have a role to play in early childhood development,” Peshko.

To help raise awareness and address concerns, the coalition requested the City of Wetaskiwin and council to advocate for early childhood development while planning and promoting city event and programs, and display the coalition’s brochures and other literature around the city; which was approved by councillors.

The Roots of Empathy program will be coming to Wetaskiwin schools in the fall. The program addresses early childhood development and emotional maturity, and Tune says bringing the program to the city is a direct result of the coalition’s concerns.

amelia.naismith@pipestoneflyer.ca

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