Most children in Hawaii are not entering kindergarten ready to learn. Hawaii State School Readiness Assessment data demonstrate that less than 10 percent of kindergarten classes have 75 percent or more children consistently displaying key skills and characteristics necessary for success in school. This is a big problem!

Approximately 60 percent of Hawaii’s children ages 2 through 5 are not likely to receive timely early childhood screenings. If unscreened, approximately one in four children with a potential problem in the areas of development, hearing or vision are likely to remain undetected and untreated. The possibility that one in four children may fail when they could have succeeded is devastating to contemplate.

Early childhood screenings and necessary follow-up care address this problem and maximize the chances of our keiki entering kindergarten with age-appropriate language, literacy and social-emotional skills. Six years ago, Learning Disabilities Association of Hawaii (LDAH), with funding from Aloha United Way (AUW), began a multi-agency initiative in the Waianae-Nanakuli area to create the first of its kind community-based “School Readiness Project” (SRP) to help increase the number of West Coast keiki ready for kindergarten. Since 2009, the project has been supported by many partners and funders, including the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Project Vision Hawaii, and most recently, Kamehameha Schools.

Keiki Child Center of Hawaii in Pearl City

Early childhood screenings and necessary follow-up care address this problem and maximize the chances of children entering kindergarten with age-appropriate language, literacy and social-emotional skills.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

SRP provides developmental, social-emotional, autism, hearing and vision screenings for children ages 2 through 5 and case management for children with needs identified through the screenings. Education on early childhood health and development is provided to parents, and families are connected with their child’s pediatrician and “Medical Home.” LDAH services target unserved and underserved families, as well as families experiencing poverty and/or homelessness, up to 80 percent of which are families of Hawaiian descent.

In January 2015, LDAH expanded SRP throughout Oahu, thanks to an impact award grant from AUW. The growth of the program speaks to the collaboration of government agencies, private nonprofits and community organizations working together for the benefit of our keiki, especially for those who would not otherwise receive screenings.

We work in cooperation with preschools, community agencies, shelters and government programs to reach families in need and where disabilities are identified, to provide additional training and information for parents, family members and professionals in our role as the Parent Training and Information Center for the State of Hawaii for the past 24 years.

Existing partners include Hale Na`au Pono Waianae Neighborhood Place, which provides outreach and referral; PROJECT VISION Hawaii, providing supplemental screenings and event funding; Lions Club (District 50), which supports vision screenings and outreach; Kaiser Permanente-Nanakuli, offering onsite screening venue and direct connection to target population; Kamehameha Schools, which provides funding, access to children and office space in their beautiful new building in Maili; and the University of Hawaii Center on Disability Studies, which lends quality assurance technical assistance.

New partners include Kalihi-Palama Community Health Center, Ho`olauloa Health Center and Waikiki Community Health Centerm along with previously served community organizations, including Community Centers and Health Centers, The Kukui Center, preschools and churches. We have expanded our “Parents as Partners” volunteer network by training parents previously served by LDAH, and other volunteers to provide early childhood screenings, assistance with events and to provide education to families.

Over the past six years, LDAH served more than 8,166 children, of which over 6,500 were screened for developmental, social-emotional, hearing and/or vision problems. LDAH has provided case management for all referred children (approximately 28 percent) and educated more than 2,700 parents on early childhood health and developmental milestones. Our goal for 2015 is to serve between 1,500 and 2,000 children and families throughout Oahu, with an emphasis on those least likely to receive screening, case management and parent training services elsewhere.

The success of the School Readiness Project speaks to the power of Hawaii’s public and private sectors working together for the benefit of Hawaii’s keiki. Our free screenings are a low-cost, high-return investment in our children’s future because when they are prepared for school, they are far more likely to succeed throughout their entire educational career. They are more likely to earn higher wages and contribute more successfully to their communities. By partnering, we are changing our children’s futures!

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About the Author

  • Michael K. Moore
    Michael K. Moore has served as Executive Director of Learning Disabilities Association of Hawaii since 2007. He has over three decades of work experience with individuals with various disabilities and specialized knowledge in mental health and chemical dependency. Michael is dedicated to developing best-practices programs to meet the needs of Hawaii’s parents of children with or at risk of disabilities. He is an active participant in boards, advisory committees and task groups locally, regionally and nationally that contribute to meeting the needs of children with disabilities and other education related problems.