Archive for February, 2021


    Applying Brain Science and the Effects of Stress and Trauma on the Practice of Speech and Language Pathology

    Angela Prieto (GU Certificate in Early Intervention ’20) February 15, 2021
    Child brain image

    Because stress and trauma can hinder a child’s development, the child may not communicate their wants and needs effectively. Some examples of how stress can affect a child’s language abilities is if their learning environment is affected. Heidi Reed of Turnaround for Children tells us how important the learning environment is and the negative effects it can have on a child if it is not a positive learning environment. For language development, a positive learning environment includes consistent language input and good “speech models”.

    Children, whose home environments are less than positive due to extreme poverty, homelessness, violence, etc., are stressful and can influence language development. For example, in order to provide for the child parents/caregivers may need to work long hours and may not be available to talk to the child with the frequency or intensity to develop language skills. Specifically, trauma can lead to young children to have “selective mutism”. Children with selective mutism chose not to speak or may only speak to certain people they trust because of the trauma they have experienced. Children exposed to neglect and abuse are at-risk for having a developmental delay compared to typical peers, especially in the language domain because they are experience these stressors at a time critical to language development.

    Heidi Reed says, “it’s not what the kids or families can do but what we can do“, which reminds us to conduct a thorough parent interview to identify specific family stressors that could impact the child and what the child’s language environment is. We can help the families promote a positive learning and language environment. For example when serving a child, it is imperative for a provider to teach a parent/caregiver how to be a good speech model, and how to promote the best language environment for the child. Recognizing the impact of stress and trauma on a child’s development reminds us of that service providers need to focus on the child, the family, and the community.

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    Positive Relationships in Response to Stress Help to Promote Healthy Development

    Alexis Montgomery (GU Certificate in Early Intervention ’20) February 01, 2021
    Father playing with two kids


    Toxic stress situations affect negatively healthy development because the lack of positive relationships. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) can contribute to a host of negative outcomes including developmental delays and school failure. Examples of ACEs include neglect, abuse, parents with mental illness, poverty, racism, oppression, homelessness, separation from parents, and punitive discipline. Studies have shown that children who experienced 4 or more of these ACEs are 32 times more likely for developing learning or behavior problems.

    Many children who are identified in early care and education situations as displaying challenging behaviors or decreased attention have often experienced 4 or more ACEs. The behavior may be the outward manifestation of a host of challenges a young child experiences on a regular basis. Specific ACEs are linked to an increased risk for developmental delay or disability. These include physical abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, restraint and seclusion, sexual abuse, invasive medical procedures, and social rejections.

    Children with disabilities who attend a childcare program can’t leave their ACEs at the door, therefore, to help promote learning and development we must help children learn to respond to stress or trauma in healthy, positive ways. Key to promoting positive behaviors in response to stress, childcare professionals should provide a positive, healthy, trusting relationship. A safe, calm, and predictable environment can also help with development by balancing dysregulating environments with coregulating environments, such as in a child care setting. Creating a healthy context for learning helps promote learning in children. In children with disabilities who have also experienced ACEs early intervention providers may also need to explicitly promote the building blocks of learning such as self-regulation, self-management, and attachment. Providing children with disabilities in a childcare setting with the resources that they need based on their developmental level and providing necessary support will foster learning and growth along with their peers.

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