Child playing

Many of us turn to internet searches when we need answers. While Google knows a lot, it is not the preferred resource when you have questions about your child’s development. Turn instead to Kalamazoo RESA’s Early On program and PrePrimary Evaluation Team (PET) that provide free developmental assessments for young children. 

Early On supports the youngest children living in Kalamazoo County, from birth through age three. PET provides evaluations and interventions for children ages 3-6. These evaluations can determine your child’s progress in key developmental areas such as speech and language, social/emotional learning, vision, hearing, fine and gross motor skills, problem-solving and self-help. 

“We want to give children the best possible start,” said Jennifer Sova, administrator of KRESA (Kalamazoo RESA) early intervention and special services. “Early intervention is a vital step in helping all learners achieve success in school and later in life.” 

Both programs work with families to determine whether a child needs support from a special education program in the family’s local school district, through KRESA, or another community agency, said Sova. 

When Nichole Hageman’s four4-year-old daughter, Heavenlee, seemed to be struggling with her words, her pediatrician recommended a PET evaluation. Hageman called PET and set up an in-person assessment for Heavenlee. 

“The team was so polite. They really connected with her and treated us with respect and dignity,” Hageman said. “The whole process was very fast, very clean and very safe. They kept us protected.”

In less than a month, the PET team determined Heavenlee would benefit from two hours of speech therapy a week, provided at Curious Kids in Portage. “She just needs a boost,” Hageman said. “The plan is to get her where she needs to be so she doesn’t need more help later on.” 

If a parent is questioning whether their child is on track, it never hurts to call and request an evaluation, Hageman said. “Getting your child help is the priority. They are wonderful people and there is help out there,” she said. “Heavenlee loves to go, which makes me feel good. She’s getting what she needs.” 

Andrea Yancer is a speech and language pathologist who performs preschool evaluations with PET. She also helps facilitate Tiny Talkers, an intensive intervention for 2- to 3-year-olds with a delay in language. The idea behind Tiny Talkers is to provide children with a burst of intensive services, so they potentially need less support once they reach preschool, Yancer said.

Every child progresses through the program at their own pace. “Some are with us three to six months, and by the time they turn three, no additional intervention is needed. Others need continued speech therapy, and some move on to special education in preschool,” Yancer said. She encourages parents to request an assessment for their children. “Parents are the first teachers a child has. As a parent, we don’t know it all,” Yancer said. “If you have questions, reach out and ask. It’s okay to seek out help.” 

One of the benefits of receiving services through Early On or PET is that the team is tailored to the support a family’s needs. The family’s team may include a school psychologist, occupational therapist, social worker or speech and language pathologist. 

Any parent or caregiver of a child living in the KRESA service area can request a free evaluation. An assessment may be warranted if a parent notices any of the following:

- They have difficulty understanding their child’s speech
- Child’s vocabulary is not increasing
- Child is not using sentences to talk about and ask for things
- Child is not able to correctly answer simple questions
- Child is not retaining new skills taught - Child is not understanding/following simple directions - Child is not seeking attention/interacting with others - Child is not playing creatively with toys - Parent’s gut feeling is their child is not on target

“It’s our goal to get families in to see how we can help them and provide the best support so they can get on with their lives,” Yancer said. “We are often their first contact with special education, so we strive to be that positive, helpful support they need.” To request services for a child ages 0-3, contact Early On at (269) 250-9649. For children ages 3-6, contact PET at (269) 250-9670. Assessments and services are free to families in the KRESA service area.

On Tuesday, May 4, voters in the Kalamazoo RESA service area will be asked to vote on whether to renew a six-year, 1.5-mill property tax millage to help fund the costs of special education in our local schools. For more information, visit the FAQ on our website here: