Nursing students provide testing for Head Start children |

Nursing students provide testing for Head Start children

Nursing students from Western Nevada College went to the Washoe tribe’s Head Start school Friday to sharpen their skills.

They spent the day checking the eyesight, hearing, growth and development of 60 slightly wary 3-5 year olds registered in the program.

Donnie Moellendorf, who runs the program, said the kids seemed suspicious because “they probably think they’re going to get shots.”

Jami-Sue Coleman, one of the teachers in charge of the students, said they plan on returning each year with their second-year registered nurse students to give the children a checkup.

“It makes sure the students get lots of opportunities to look at early childhood development, and it provides a service to the community,” she said. “They can practice their skills and reinforce the theory they’ve learned while they’re introduced to the concept of being engaged in the community.”

Moellendorf said federal rules require that Head Start students get a thorough medical checkup in the first 45 days of the school year. She said that enables the program to refer them to providers if, for example, they need glasses or dental work.

There were no needles in sight Friday. With Coleman and fellow teacher Debbie LeBalch watching, nursing students Chris Snow, Ashlee Bauter, Danel Fisher, Shawna Sandoval and Emily Tillotson weighed the children and recorded their height. Then each had their vision tested with an eye chart featuring symbols such as circles, stars and triangles instead of the alphabet. Hearing was tested with an electronic sound generator hooked to a pair of headphones.

Coleman said hearing problems often show up as difficulty in speaking because it’s hard to learn to talk when you can’t hear well. Vision problems too can be tricky because young children adapt and compensate.

The screenings also try to spot any developmental problems. If something seems wrong, the student is referred to the school district, which has psychologists and experts able to do a more thorough evaluation.

“We try to catch any problems early on,” she said.

The program serves 60 students at the school near Stewart and another 30 at Dresslerville. The tribe has had a Head Start program for about a decade.

• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at or 687-8750.