EI Talk: A Blog for Early
Childhood Professionals


Walkers, Jumpers, Exersaucers: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Early Childhood Interventions April 13, 2015

Infant devices such as walkers, jumpers, and exersaucers are a frequent topic of concern in early intervention. These devices are widely marketed as helping promote a baby’s development and parents often feel they have to have them in order to meet their child’s needs. Additionally, some babies really seem to enjoy the time they spend in their devices. Research on the safety of these devices as well as on their effects on development, however, has not been as positive.

Walkers were originally developed to provide a means of mobility for exploration before a child learns to walk. DiLillo, Damashek, and Peterson (2001) found that parents use walkers and exersaucers for entertainment, perceived developmental benefit, and easy availability.

Concerns have arisen regarding the safety of these devices. Injuries have been reported related to the device itself such as pinching fingers and toes in device hardware and injuries caused because the child is more mobile. Increased mobility in these devices has led to burns when a child can maneuver close to a hot stove, poisonings when a child can bring themselves closer to cabinet sinks and other storage areas, and falls down stairs when a child gets too close to the edge (AAP 2001). Mandatory standards that were implemented in 1971 addressed the incidence of pinch injuries and, as a result, those injuries have decreased. Voluntary standards to address tip overs and falls were implemented in 1996, thus these injuries have decreased also.

However, providers should be aware that many families purchase these expensive devices from second-hand stores or receive them handed down from family members or friends and therefore, a provider cannot assume that the walker a child is using meets safety standards. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against the use of walkers entirely due to questions around the safety of the devices. The AAP recommends that when families choose to use a device, they should select one that does not roll (an exersaucer), however, they caution that data on injuries with these devices are not yet available.

Safety concerns have also been observed with jumper devices that hang over doorways. Concerns related to falls are common. There have also been incidents in which children gained too much momentum and swung into door frames. Generally, devices that remain stationary are recommended over the jumpers over doorways.

The infamous Bumbo® seat has been recalled several times for safety modifications. Children have been able to tip out of the Bumbo® leading to injuries. The current recommendation is that the parent or caregiver supervise the child in the Bumbo® at all times. Also, children should only be placed in a Bumbo on the floor. They should never be placed in the Bumbo ®on top of a counter, couch, or other surface.

The impact of these devices on a baby’s development is also concerning. Siegel and Burton 1999 found that babies who spent time in walkers sat, crawled, and walked later than the control group that did not use the devices. In addition, the babies in the walker group scored lower on the Bayley Scales of Infant Development-Mental and Motor, indicating that the devices may not have the positive impact on cognitive development as once thought.  Another study (Kauffman & Ridenour, 1977) showed that children who spent time in walkers were more likely to use abnormal patterns of movement such as tiptoe walking when first learning to walk. However, there are other studies that indicate that the use of walkers provide a child a means of independent mobility that promotes cognitive development through independent environmental exploration (Kermoian &Campos).

The best place for a baby to learn to move their body is on the floor. There, the baby can learn to use his or her own muscles to initiate movement. Seats that help support a baby in these devices do not require the muscles to work as hard and often place the baby’s hips in a position of excessive external rotation and abduction. In addition, when babies spend less time on the floor, they lose opportunities to perform skills such as crawling that develop trunk and upper body strength.

When families ask if it is ok to use these devices, always make sure they are aware of the safety concerns around the particular device they are using. It is best for the baby to play on the floor, but if a family’s routines indicate a device is necessary, it should be used in moderation. Parents should also be cautioned about the amount of time a child spends in a seating device such as an infant carrier or bouncer chair as these devices also inhibit a baby’s movement and can impede development. A general rule of thumb is that no more than 15-20 minutes of an infant’s day should be spent in infant devices. What explanation have you used to help parents understand this issue?

For more information:

American Academy of Pediatrics. (2001). Injuries associated with infant walkers. Pediatrics, 108(3), 790-792. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/10J8/3/790.full

Kermoian R. & Campos JJ. (1988). Locomotor experience: a facilitator of spatial cognitive development. Child Development, 59: 908-917.

DiLillo, D., Damashek, A., Peterson, L. (2001). Maternal use of baby walkers with young children: recent trends and possible alternatives. Injury Prevention, 7, 223-227.

Kauffman, I.B., Ridenour M. (1977). Influence of an infant walker on onset and quality of walking pattern of locomotion: an electromyographic investigation. Percept Mot Skills, 45, 1323–1329.

Siegel, A.C., Burton, R.V. (1999). Effects of baby walkers on motor and mental development in human infants. J Dev Behav Pediatr, 20,355–361.

 

— Jamie Holloway

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What Does Early Intervention Have to do With School Suspension?

Early Childhood Interventions April 01, 2015

Greater, Greater Washington featured an article highlighting the suspension of children from pre-kindergarten classes and how local early intervention and special education services may be part of the solution.

According to a report from the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), 181 children in DC public and charter pre-kindergarten classes were given out-of-school suspensions in 2012-2013. (Note: This is just for certain types of suspensions required to be reported to the federal government. The actual number of pre-kindergarten suspensions was likely much higher.) A similar report from DC Lawyers for Youth found that one DC charter school pre-kindergarten program suspended more than 10% of their students in 2011-2012. Often, children are suspended for offenses like temper tantrums, toileting incidents and other developmentally appropriate behavior for 3- and 4-year olds.

The Greater, Greater Washington reporter raises the question of whether some of these suspensions may be due to undiagnosed disabilities and special needs. These young children may have significant developmental needs that cannot be adequately addressed by 1 teacher in a classroom of 15 or 20 students unless she is provided with support.

Ideally, children with special needs should be identified prior to starting pre-kindergarten, through the city’s Strong Start , DC Early Intervention Program or Early Stages, the DC Public Schools Child Find program. Eligible children can then receive supportive services at home and in school. But many children are not being identified early enough or may not qualify for services despite their challenges. Despite expanding the eligibility requirements for the DC Early Intervention Program and increasing access to eligibility evaluations for preschool through Early Stages, many are still unaware of these supports and services for children who have developmental delays or disabilities.

DC is poised to further expand access to services for young children with developmental delays and disabilities, by lowering the threshold for developmental delay. New legislation will require Strong Start, DC Early Intervention to lower the eligibility requirements and to decrease the evaluation time for determining eligibility for pre-school special education through the DC Public Schools.. While there are some questions about Strong Start DC’s or the DC Public School’s ability to handle the potential influx of newly eligible children, we can all agree that identifying children in need of early intervention services or preschool special education services earlier and getting them the support they need will benefit DC’s children and schools. There are few reasons why a 4-year-old should be suspended, but many reasons why the child and their family may need extra support to succeed in pre-kindergarten and beyond.

Lindsay Ferrer GU Certificate in Early Intervention Student

References:

Rothschild, A. (2014, September 22). Wondering why a preschooler would ever need to be suspended? Here’s an explanation. Greater Greater Washington. Available at http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/24282/wondering-why-a-preschooler-would-ever-need-to-be-suspended-heres-an-explanation/

District of Columbia, Office of the State Superintendent of Education. (2014). Reducing out-of school-suspensions and expulsions in the District of Columbia and Public Charter Schools. Washington, DC: Author Available at http://osse.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/osse/publication/attachments/OSSE_REPORT_DISCIPLINARY_G_PAGES.pdf

DC Lawyers for Youth (2014). District discipline: The overuse of school suspension and expulsion in the District of Columbia. Washington, DC. The Every Student Every Day Coalition. Available at http://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/dcly/pages/64/attachments/original/1371689930/District_Discipline_Report.pdf?1371689930

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iGood, the iBad, and the iUgly of Screen Time for Young Children

Early Childhood Interventions March 02, 2015

When I was a youngster we had two screens in our house: a television screen and the screen door. Now with computers, laptops, iPods, iPads, iPhones, and everything else that begin with the letter “i” in its name, screens are ubiquitous in our children’s lives.

I could not believe my eyes as I watched my 4 year old cousin unwrap her touch screen cellphone Christmas morning of last year. Unfortunately for her she is unable to make quick phone calls during circle time, for the device does not have a service plan, it is only wifi enabled. But that does not stop her from taking selfies all day long. Although she cannot read yet, I find that since she started tapping away on her touch screen device her digital literacy has increased tremendously. She can associate the symbols of the ‘back’ button to their corresponding functions.

Clearly, young kids find electronic devices engaging. But what happens when you put one of these devices in the hands of a child under the age 2? Here is the iGood, the iBad, and the iUgly of these media devices; and the actions professionals suggest parents take to make sure their children get only the iBest out of their media experiences.

Sandra Calvert the Director of Georgetown University’s Children’s Media Center (http://cdmc.georgetown.edu/) reports that four major tends have emerged from the research undertaken over the last decade on children’s use of media:

  1. there is an increasing amount of child oriented media available,
  2. there is an increase in the development and use of media for very young children (under 2 years of age),
  3. there is an increase in multitasking even for young children, and
  4. interactive media platforms are easier to use even for very young children.

We all recognize that media is here to stay but what does the research say about young children’s use of media. According to Common Sense Media (2011):

  • 65% of children under 8 watch TV every day. Preschoolers average 2 hours/day.
  • 66% of children under 2 are exposed to TV content.
  • 30% of 6 month-24 month old infants and toddlers have a TV in their room. This suggests that very young children are watching video content alone.
  • 37% of children under 2 are exposed to screen media every day.
  • 21% of children use 2 use a computer (calvert, Rideout, Woolard, Barr, & Strouse, 2005)

According to PBS (2014) 18% of infants and toddlers spend the day watching either videos or DVDs. In fact, children of this age group spend double the amount of time with screens as they do reading books (PBS, 2014). That is too much Sesame, and not enough Seuss.

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises against screen time for infants and toddlers under the age of 2. Physicians believe that children learn best when interacting with people, not iPods. But in this age of ubiquitous media use is this realistic or even necessary? The key to media use as a benefit to young children is how it is used. And like all toys or tools young children benefit from their use when they are used interactively with another person. It seems no matter what—children still learn best person to person even if media is incorporated into the interaction.

A series of studies showed how 2 year olds find it challenging integrating information from a video and applying it to real life situations (Troseth, 2006). On the other hand, Troseth Has also found that Skype may actually be beneficial. Although a Skype call does include a screen, there is an active component to the call and the active interaction between the child and who is on the screen can be beneficial to a child’s development. Troseth believes that Skype calls, with a parent or grandparent, show children that what is on the screen is connected to their lives and builds upon social interaction (HU, 2013).  Thus, beneficial screen time includes an active interaction in real time with another person.

Other research (Calvert, Richards, Kent, 2014) indicates that when toddlers are exposed to media characters who were personalized they learned more from those characters than the non-personalized ones. The children exposed to the personalized characters also showed more parasocial, nurturing behaviors during play sessions,

Although adults are encouraged to interact with young children without electronic devices, the reality is that young children are growing up in the digital age and they find these devices attractive. So can parents call on technology to support development? According to National Association of the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) we should “allow children to explore digital materials in the context of human interactions, with an adult as mediator and co-player” (NAEYC). Too often, children are using the technology in isolation. Too often, parents are using the technology as a “teacher” not as a tool to assist the parent as teacher.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children and the Fred Rogers Center has developed a list of ways parents can use media to engage with their children:

  • Use a digital camera or computer to show images and video of family, friends, animals, or events to children, especially when children might not otherwise have exposure to them. Talk to the child about the pictures, who the people are, the sights, etc.
  • Treat the experience of reading an e-book the same as reading a print book: put the child in your lap, point to objects on screen, talk with the child, and introduce new vocabulary.
  • Video chat with a loved one.

So—what about children with disabilities? How does this research apply to children with disabilities? What do you think? What does your experience tell you? How do you coach families to use assistive technology? Does the AAP recommendations hold-up? If my 4 year old cousin is typical, then screens are here to stay—How do we control the screen?

Let’s start a dialogue! 

References

Calvert, S. L., & Wartella, E. A. (2014). Children and electronic media. In E.T. Gershoff, R.S. Mistry, D.A. Crosby (Eds.).Societal contexts of child development: Pathways of influence and implications for practice and policy, (pp.175-187), New York: Oxford University Press.

Calvert, S. L., Richards, M. N., & Kent, C. C. (2014). Personalized interactive characters for toddlers’ learning of seriation from a video presentation. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology35(3), 148-155.

Calvert, S.L., Rideout, V.J., Woolard, J.L., Barr, R.F. & Strouse, G.A. (2005). Age,

ethnicity, and socioeconomic patterns in early computer use: A national survey.

American Behavioral Scientist, 48, 590-607.

Common Sense Media. (2011, October 25). Zero to Eight: Children’s Media Use in America. Retrieved October 13, 2014. 

Hu, E. (2014, October 28). What You Need To Know About Babies, Toddlers And Screen Time. Retrieved October 13, 2014. 

PBS. (n.d.). TV and Kids under Age 3. Retrieved October 13, 2014. 

Technology and Young Children | National Association for the Education of Young Children | NAEYC. (n.d.). Retrieved October 13, 2014. 

Troseth, G., Saylor, M., & Archer, A. (2006). Young Children’s Use Of Video As A Source Of Socially Relevant Information. Child Development, 786-799.  

Walter Kelly,
Georgetown University, COL’16

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The relationship between language and motor development in early childhood

Early Childhood Interventions January 14, 2015

Do you know?

  • Sitting posture in infants influences language development?
  • Rhythmic arm movements coincide with reduplicated babbling?
  • Developmental progression of an infant’s use of objects is linked directly to language achievements?
  • Mobility, especially upright mobility, is connected to social communication?

And who said only speech therapists promote language and only PTs and OTs promote motor development???

For most of us, developmental progression in the five primary developmental domains of cognition, communication, motor, adaptive, and social-emotional skills is very important. Most of us think that babies should sit up by 6 months of age, walk by 12 months, and talk by two. Parents, especially, anticipate seeing their babies reach those important milestones. Most people see moving and talking as two very different kinds of skills. Recent research, however, indicates that there is a clear relationship between learning to move and learning to talk. This relationship is more than developmental trajectories. Understanding this relationship may help us, as early interventionists, promote communication, language, and talking by promoting movement.

Various factors contribute to the development of language skills. These include cognition, gender, the environment, and the interaction between the child and primary caregivers. Only recently has attention been paid to the relationship between language and motor development. Research is building to show that movement directly influences the acquisition of language. According to Iverson (2010), three aspects of motor development are particularly influential on language development: posture, locomotion, and object-manipulation. Iverson argues that the acquisition of motor skills provides “infants with an opportunity to practice skills relevant to language acquisition before they are needed for that purpose” (p. 236)

Posture or sitting independently: When a baby can sit alone, his hands are free to reach for objects, explore the attributes of objects, or ask for a hug. Babies exploring objects are developing the concepts of object properties such as weight, texture, size. When spoken to about these properties they are reinforced and the baby links words/sounds to the properties.

In addition to the freeing of hands, when a child is able to sit upright independently there are substantial changes in her rib cage which in turn allow improved respiratory control needed for vocalizing, and positioning of the speech articulators (lip, tongue, teeth, pharynx). When a child sits upright and independently she breathes easily promoting longer utterances and the tongue is positioned forward which allows for the production of consonant-vowel combinations. Sitting independently with upright posture places the baby’s physical speech structures and physiology in an ideal position to promote speech sounds.

Locomotion or walking: When a child stands up and walks around, he gets more chances to interact with others and the environment. For example, most of us appreciate the fact that a child can walk to the adult to show the toy he’s interested in and get the adult’s attention. Independent exploration of the environment also reinforces the concepts of space and time and reinforces the development of joint attention. Walking, even more than crawling, has been linked to more sophisticated social communication. With the child’s development of spatial orientation he understands the components of joint attention indicating that something is not directly with him but where the person is pointing. When children are able to walk their social interactions become more specific, and person directed.

Object-manipulationManipulating a variety of objects provides children with more opportunities for exploration, encouraging them to reach and grasp objects. In addition to exploring properties of objects researchers have linked a child’s ability to pull apart and put together objects to increase in vocabulary. Babies primarily pull things apart during pre-speech but as the child learns to put things together, vocabulary increases, irrespective of chronological age. The physical action of manipulating objects creates a context for attaching meaning and understanding.

Rhythmic Arm Movements: According to Iverson (2010), as infants perform rhythmic arm movements (moving or shaking the arms with certain rhythm), hand banging (banging something with your hands, for example, banging the table) may present an opportunity for practicing the production of rhythmically organized and tightly timed actions. Rhythmic arm movements are organized and tightly timed actions.

Reduplicated babbling is vocalizations consisting of syllable repetition, for example, bababa. These actions are required for reduplicated babbling. Performing rhythmic arm movements such as hand banging provides a supportive context for the development of this skill. Hand banging provides multimodal feedback that allows the infant to observe and vary the relationship between a concrete action and the sounds and visions it makes.

Changes in posture, locomotion, and object-manipulation allow the child to sit up, move around their surroundings, and manipulate objects they are familiar with in new ways. These early experiences provide the infants more exploring and interacting opportunities, physiological stability, social referencing, and contextual attributes which all influence language development, communications, vocalizations, and vocabulary development.

How can we use this information as early interventionists? As an early interventionist, what can we do to better help children develop their language and motor skills? How does this research inform our practice, our intervention, our coaching of families?

There are several strategies that can be embedded in daily routines. The link between motor skills and language development is strong and is more than maturation. Manipulating the context may help to produce vocalizations, social communication, object meaning and understanding.

  1. Children who at about 6 months of age and are still struggling to learn to sit independently may benefit from support, not only to “practice” sitting but to position the lungs, rib cage, and speech articulators in an optimal position for speech production and vocalizations which will in turn enhance the child’s communication skills.
  2. You can display a toy dog or other toys that the baby likes in front of him and keep it out of his reach. Try to make the sound to attract his attention. The baby may be reaching his hands, crawling or walking toward the toy or make an attempt to imitate the sound of the word “dog”. During the interaction, try to make eye contact and keep talking to the baby, encourage the baby and reinforce his intentional behaviors.
  3. Give the child a rattle to manipulate and shake, encourage him to move both his arms. When the baby is engaging in rhythmic banging, he is feeling himself move, seeing the movement of his arms, and hearing the resultant sound, all occurring in synchrony. This kind of rhythmic arm movements will enhance the reduplicated babbling, further promote the language development.

The Iverson article gives us lots of food for thought. What are your ideas? How would you and your teams use this information to help your families?   Read the Iverson article and start a conversation here on TalkEI!

Meng Lyu
East China Normal University

Reference:

Iverson, J. (2010). Developing language in a developing body: the relationship between motor development and language development. Journal of Child Language, 37(2), 229–261.

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