Provincial project reveals room for improvement in early childhood development

Members of Sylvan Lake and Area Early Childhood Coalition learned there’s still much work to be done

Members of Sylvan Lake and Area Early Childhood Coalition learned there’s still much work to be done in ensuring proper development of Alberta’s young children.

They gathered at the community centre May 22 to meet Early Childhood Development Mapping Project (ECMap) director Dr. Susan Lynch, who updated them on provincial results of ECMap’s Early Development Instrument (EDI).

Baseline results from 2009 to 2013 revealed only about 46 per cent of five-year-old children were developing appropriately in the project’s five measured areas of development − language and thinking skills, emotional maturity, communication skills and general knowledge, social competence, and physical health and well-being.

The results, Lynch feels, speak for themselves.

“I was astonished by that number,” she said. “That means we’ve got more than half the kids experiencing some kind of difficulty in one of these areas at least.”

A rate of about 65 per cent might have been her estimate beforehand, she added.

Provincial data is used as a baseline for data collected in the Sylvan Lake and area range. Included in that range are the town of Sylvan Lake, Benalto and four of the five summer villages.

Sylvan Lake and area fared higher than the provincial average in the areas of social competence and emotional maturity, but fell short in others.

Just 38.7 per cent of children evaluated in Sylvan Lake and area were found to be developing appropriately in all five areas.

Lynch said it’s not unusual to see disparity throughout the province, with factors such as population and demographics taken into consideration.

“You’ve got a lot of growth going on here, and so you may find that simply the growth is going to change some of those patterns.”

Nonetheless, she feels numbers across the province should be a case for concern.

There is “a big enough difference that we want to be asking ourselves what is going on here,” she said.

ECMap promotes a child’s early years as being the most important in their lifelong development. It encourages investment in early childhood development through community resources and knowledge and understanding.

Full province-wide results of the EDI are available online at www.ecmap.ca.