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Region Stories

These stories illustrate how early childhood programs and services funded by First Things First make a difference for young children and families in communities across Arizona.

Hearing screening prompts medical treatment for Payson girl

Samantha Stuhmer happened to be at a Payson community event last summer that offered area families hearing and vision screenings. She decided to take advantage of the free service and had her toddler screened.

Stuhmer said she worried that frequent bouts with ear infections, allergies and croup could affect the hearing of her 3-year-old daughter, Peyton. The hearing screening raised red flags.

“She ended up not passing an initial hearing screening and a follow-up screening,” the mother said of her daughter.

With screening results in hand, Stuhmer followed up with her daughter’s doctor. Soon after, Peyton underwent surgery that included the insertion of ear tubes to prevent fluid buildup and problems with her hearing. 

“I think eventually we probably would have been able to get her ear tubes, but I don’t think it would’ve been as easy of a process without the program,” Stuhmer said.

The First Things First GIla Regional Partnership Council funds hearing, vision and developmental screenings in Gila County for children up to 5 years old. 

The University of Arizona’s Developmental and Sensory Screening program operates under the umbrella of the University of Arizona’s Cooperative Extension.

A child’s brain develops most rapidly within the first few years and having regular screenings can ensure youngsters are meeting developmental milestones, said Chrisann Dawson, a senior instructional specialist with the screening program.

She works with staff at preschools, child care centers and in-home child care providers who help her connect with parents of children who may need to be screened. About 300 children in Gila County undergo screenings every year, Dawson said.

The state requires that children enrolled in preschool, kindergarten and some higher grades get hearing screenings. While vision screenings are not mandated, Dawson said they also can make a difference for growing children. 

“Vision and hearing, they’re both so vital in language development,” she said. “It’s so important to make sure that before kids go to kindergarten and they start to do serious business, they don’t have issues with vision or hearing.”

For her part, Stuhmer said she is grateful her daughter was able to get the hearing screening because it helped prompt the medical procedure that brought relief to her daughter. In May, Peyton had a hearing screening again at her preschool. 

“She passed with flying colors,” Stuhmer said. “She’s doing really great.” Peyton’s mother said she is confident that her daughter will thrive when she starts kindergarten in the fall.

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