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September 3, 2004

Message from the Governor

As Washington students head back to school, parents and caregivers often heave a collective sigh of relief, hoping that they have done everything possible to prepare their children for a successful school year. But preparation for success in school begins much earlier than those final, fleeting weeks of summer. Success in school begins at birth.

Quote of the Week
“The first three years of life can make all the difference for children with developmental delays or disabilities. Early intervention—with the many valuable services available in our state—helps infants and toddlers achieve their best potential.”
—Governor Locke, September 3, 2004

Intense early learning starts when a baby is born and continues through the first three years. This period of early learning is the best opportunity to help children develop their minds. These earliest stages are the foundation for a lifetime of learning.

For children with developmental delays or disabilities, these first three years of life are especially critical. Helping our youngest infants and toddlers with disabilities and delays at this early stage—called “early intervention”—can make a lifelong difference. With intervention started as soon as a diagnosis, concern or delay is identified, a child has the greatest developmental gains, and has less chance of developing problems later on in life.

There is a clear link between early brain activity and development. Early intervention makes the most of this opportunity and provides building blocks for ongoing learning and function. It also helps children enter school ready to learn.

Research results show that early intervention programs can prevent developmental problems later in life. This is a great outcome for the child, and it also avoids more costly specialized services later on.

Our state’s early intervention program for children with delays or disabilities is called the Infant Toddler Early Intervention Program. Services available through this program include physical, speech and occupational therapy, and a wide variety of other needed social, health and educational services to assist in a child’s development. Family resources are also available, including information to help reduce anxieties and address common concerns.

The program is coordinated through the Department of Social and Health Services. It is a partnership of agencies, school districts, community organizations and private providers. These agencies and organizations work together to provide quality, integrated services to young children with developmental delays or disabilities. This partnership served more than 6500 Washington children last year.

Early intervention works. Between October 2002 and September 2003, nearly 20 percent of the children who left the program before or at age 3 no longer needed special programs. Early intervention promotes children’s growth and development. It encourages positive parent-child relationships. And early intervention increases a family’s capacity to care for their child—and reduces the need for out of home placements.

Parents concerned about a child’s development can contact Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies (1-800-322-2588). Parents can also give permission to a medical provider or family member to call.

Infants and toddlers with disabilities and delays need our help now. Let’s do our best to make sure all of Washington’s children have the best possible opportunity to start school ready to learn, and ready to succeed.

Gary Locke
Gary Locke

Governor’s Priorities
News Highlights

Forcing Polluters to Clean Up Lake Roosevelt
Governor Locke and Attorney General Christine Gregoire announced on August 31 that the state is joining the Colville Confederated Tribes in a lawsuit to force the Teck Cominco mining company to clean up Lake Roosevelt. “We are joining the lawsuit because we believe that implementing the EPA order is the quickest way to complete the studies and begin cleaning up the lake,” the Governor said. “We prefer not to use the legal route, but we are doing so because we must protect our state’s interests in this issue.” Individual members of the Colville Confederated Tribes, whose reservation borders the lake, sued Teck Cominco in U.S. District Court for Eastern Washington in July for failing to comply with that order. By joining the suit, the state is seeking the implementation of the EPA order to complete the studies and begin the process of cleanup.

Washington Students Keep Improving
Gov. Locke and Washington's students Governor Locke recently lauded the exceptional progress Washington students are making on the WASL. The latest scores were released September 1. The results show that students in the state continue to make steady, consistent improvement in reading, math and writing. “Our state’s high standards are paying off. Students showed improvement in every subject area and at every grade level. There were improvements across the board for all minority and ethnic groups, and we’re making progress on closing the achievement gap. I congratulate students, teachers, principals, parents and school district staff for their hard work. I also commend Superintendent of Public Instruction Terry Bergeson for her leadership in our successful education reform efforts. Washington state is a national model with a tradition of setting high achievement standards for students and continuous school improvement. We are committed to making sure every Washington student meets or exceeds our state’s tough new academic standards. We must continue to work together to give our children the education they deserve and need to succeed.”

Department of Health Expands Newborn Screening
Newborns in Washington are now being screened for more disabling and life-threatening conditions than ever before. The Washington State Department of Health's Newborn Screening program has increased the number of screening tests for Washington infants from four to nine. The new required tests have already proven their value for 29 Washington infants, including four with potentially deadly conditions. Washington now screens for all disorders recommended by the March of Dimes. Newborn screening is performed on every infant born in Washington to test for treatable disorders. Since universal testing of infants began in our state in 1977, nearly 1,000 babies have been diagnosed and treated for disorders that are otherwise disabling or deadly.

Fighting Flood Damage with Better Maps
A project is getting under way to update and digitize flood-plain maps in Washington. These improved maps will help landowners and local officials make wiser decisions about where it's safe to build. The effort is part of a nationwide push by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to make local flood maps more accurate. The maps are also being digitized for Web availability. The Department of Ecology will coordinate the effort in Washington. Maps of flood-prone areas in seven counties are being redrawn to make them more accurate and to reflect changes in flooding patterns. Work already has begun in Clark, Pierce, Skagit and Whatcom counties and will soon be under way in Kitsap and Spokane counties.

Upcoming Events

9/8: Weekly News Conference—Olympia
9/9: Opening Conference of the 25th Anniversary of the Ports of Seattle and Shanghai—Seattle

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