By Kelly Schmidt, content manager for United Way of Salt Lake

Children start learning long before their first day of kindergarten.

From the time they are born, children are learning from their parents, family members, and other loved ones.

“Parents are every student’s first teachers,” said Igor Limansky, United Way of Salt Lake’s grassroots engagement director. “We want all parents to know that they are equal partners in their children’s education.”

Ensuring that all kids are academically and developmentally on track when starting school is an important component of United Way’s early education work. And parents are the key to it’s success.

For the last several months, UWSL’s grassroots engagement team has knocked on doors, hosted community dinners, and visited community centers in South Salt Lake to spread the word about the Ages and Stages Questionnaire — a parent-administered assessment that can help gauge their child’s development from infancy to about five years old.

The ASQ examines everything from a child’s fine and gross motor skills, to communication and problem solving. The results can not only track a child’s development, but also identify delays and disorders well before a child starts school.

Despite childcare professionals, pediatricians, and other early education providers using its results in their work, the ASQ isn’t introduced to parents with much regularity. Amy Ahrens Terpstra, UWSL senior director of network partnerships, said United Way is working on strategies with such providers, especially those working with low-income families, to introduce the ASQ to parents early on.

Reaching out to parents in person has dramatically increased the response rate on the ASQ.

From January to September, Help Me Grow Utah — an information referral helpline focused on sharing resources and information about child development — received 32 ASQs in a targetted area of South Salt Lake, Limansky said. Over the last 15 weeks, the UWSL grassroots team has collected 45 referrals, 15 of which came from the same targeted South Salt Lake area as Help Me Grow Utah — increasing the referrals collected in that are by about 46 percent.

Introducing parents to the ASQ is a touch point for the grassroots team to become more recognizable within the South Salt Lake community and is helping the team build parent engagement and leadership from within.

The grassroots interns — all of whom grew up and still live in South Salt Lake — made the difference, said Limansky.

“If you have someone trained in how to give (the ASQ), comes from these communities, and has the cultural competencies, parents are more willing to get engaged,” Limansky explained. “Then, hopefully, parents want to become even more engaged in other ways.”

To learn more about the Ages and Stages Questionnaire, or take it with your children, visit Help Me Grow Utah. To learn more about United Way of Salt Lake’s grassroots engagement efforts, please visit