Archive for the ‘ Must Read ’ Category

The 3 Speech Benchmarks 3-Year-Olds Should Have

Monday, June 30th, 2014

Although toddlers reach language milestones at different ages, substantial delays can be associated with long term language problems. Given that, it’s worth giving careful consideration to benchmarks at different key ages. For example, a typical milestone is using 50 words by age two – though recent research suggests that a more telling indicator may be functional use of 25 words by that age. Perhaps less attention is typically given to language milestones at later ages – even though these can signal the need for evaluation and intervention.

To this end, Dr. Leslie Rescorla – a leading expert on language delay – has offered 3 speech benchmarks for 3-year-olds:

1) Using 3-4 word sentences with subject-verb-object (e.g., “I like ice cream”)
2) Can be understood consistently by most people – not just family members
3) Using the following: -ing (e.g., “crying”); in/on (e.g., “on the table”), plural forms (e.g., “two cars”), and possessives (e.g., “daddy’s car”)

This array of speech benchmarks provides a good indicator of a 3-year-old’s emerging language skills. Delays on one or more of these do not necessarily indicate the need for intervention. That said, there is utility to having your pediatrician determine if an evaluation by language experts is warranted – for one principle we have learned is that early intervention can be very beneficial for toddlers. It’s better to evaluate early and intervene if necessary rather than simply “wait and see.”

Development Milestones: Age 24 Months
Development Milestones: Age 24 Months
Development Milestones: Age 24 Months

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Parenting Principle #7: Embrace Intervention

Monday, June 30th, 2014

What are the parenting principles for raising happy, well-adjusted children? Here the focus is on the importance of intervention.

Many parents of babies and toddlers grew up in an era of “wait and see” – the idea being to not focus too much on developmental milestones and wait until there was a strong signal that a baby or toddler may have a developmental issue. That has changed.

It’s still a reality that babies and toddlers develop at different rates. There is much more of a normal range for developmental milestones than there is hard and fast age markers. That said, there are benchmark milestones and ages that are useful checkpoints for potential evaluation and intervention.

What has changed? Two things. First, developmentalists have a much more sophisticated understanding of developmental milestones and early signs of potential problems, including early symptoms of autism, language delay, and motor delay. Second, early interventions are much more powerful and can be administered at younger ages. They can make a huge difference in a young child’s life.

Pediatricians are trained to screen at key ages for fundamental milestones. If your pediatrician suggests a developmental evaluation, it doesn’t mean that intervention will be necessary. It may be that the conclusion is to “wait and see.” But given the sophistication of modern evaluation and the success of early intervention, it’s very much worth letting professionals make that call.

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Development Milestones: What to Expect at 6 Months
Development Milestones: What to Expect at 6 Months
Development Milestones: What to Expect at 6 Months

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Parenting Principle #4: Reduce Electronic Noise

Monday, June 30th, 2014

What are the parenting principles for raising happy, well-adjusted children? Here the focus is on reducing the electronic noise that permeates modern family life.

Electronic devices are a fundamental part of the fabric of modern family life. Most families have some form of electronic device in operation, and most have multiple streams going on, typically simultaneously. There’s no point to suggesting that life will be any different in the near future.

The reality is that it is up to parents to try to make sure that the benefits of screen time outweigh the downsides. The primary downside is when electronics interfere with parent-child interaction.

We can see this everywhere. It’s not hard to discover young kids in restaurants spending most of their time on their smartphone or other device. Their parents may be on theirs as well. The fact that this is happening isn’t so disconcerting, if it is balanced with some quality family talk time. Meals used to be a primary way for families to interact and talk and all be together without interruption. We need some of that back.

And the same goes for family time at home. Even the good old television is a continuing source of interference for parent-child interaction. A recent paper published in the Journal of Children and Media found, using a controlled experimental setting, that parental talk (number of words and utterances per minute, as well as number of new words used) decreased when there was background noise from the TV. Electronic noise becomes intrusive even when we aren’t aware of it and, simply put, interferes with parent-child interaction.

We are aware that we need to monitor what kids are exposed to on television, radio, smartphones, tablets and computers. We know that it’s important to turn those things off sometime so that parents and kids can talk and play and interact without distraction. But it’s really important to keep in mind that we aren’t good at blocking out the background noise even if we think we aren’t paying attention to it. We all get more than enough screen time. It’s worth making sure we get in the habit of reducing the electronic noise that we have floating in the background because it’s an insidious siphon of parent-child time. It’s easy – just turn it off.

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If you have school-age children, make sure they sign our Family Use Internet Contract.

Setting Limits on Technology
Setting Limits on Technology
Setting Limits on Technology

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Why Crawling Matters … A Lot

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014

Parents get very excited when a baby takes those first steps. As they should. It’s quite the milestone. But all the fuss about walking can diminish the very real benefits that come from babies moving themselves around their world before they can walk.

There are, in fact, many developmental benefits of crawling, including the obvious all-around opportunities for motor development. Developmentalists detail all kinds of advantages including optimizing sensory processing and integration. Relatedly, there are cognitive benefits that should not be overlooked. When babies are crawling, it gives them a chance to explore their environment and platforms them to manipulate objects. This kind of controlled and active discovery is the stuff of brain development. In the laboratory setting, babies who have more experience crawling are more apt to explore and extract information from objects – and are more advanced at later ages in terms of cognitive development. Babies need that time to take in and integrate their sensory information, and use all their senses (touching is especially important) to formulate the abstract principles that fuel cognitive development. For example, babies who have experience manipulating three-dimensional objects will be more likely to “know” that three dimensions exist when tested in the laboratory setting – their eye movements will continuing scanning images for “hidden” dimensionality in objects that other babies will miss.

All of this may sound rather “academic,” but the intention here is deliberate. It’s very easy to be thrilled seeing a baby walk. It’s not so obvious that a crawling baby is doing all kinds of highly sophisticated cognitive processing (which is more detectable in the laboratory than every day life). What’s the point of all this? Simply put – don’t be in a rush to get your baby to walk. Don’t go out of your way to promote walking when they should be crawling. Babies walk when they are ready to walk. Some do it earlier, some do it later. It doesn’t really matter. What matters is going out of your way to let your baby crawl, and to be able to find safe and interesting objects to explore. There’s a reason babies crawl before they can walk.

Keep track of Baby’s milestones in one place. 

Activity Tips: Nate 12 Months - Help Baby to Crawl
Activity Tips: Nate 12 Months - Help Baby to Crawl
Activity Tips: Nate 12 Months - Help Baby to Crawl

Baby Crawling via Shutterstock.com

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Young Baseball Pitchers: Throwing Too Hard, Too Much, Too Young

Friday, June 20th, 2014

Are young baseball pitchers jeopardizing their long term health, and success, by pushing too hard, too young? Accumulating data and perspectives indicate this is the case.

Tom Verducci has written a thought provoking piece in Sports Illustrated detailing the increasing frequency of young professional pitchers blowing out their arms. While arm problems have always been a part of the game, what’s troubling is the frequency of injuries, like those requiring Tommy John surgery, at younger and younger ages. How young? We’re not just talking about major league pitchers in the early stages of their career. Verducci documents an increasing number of players selected in the Major League Baseball draft who have already needed Tommy John surgery, before they’ve even begun playing professionally. As Verducci notes, Tommy John surgery was developed to correct injuries that typically happened later in one’s career. Now it’s not uncommon before a career even starts.

What’s the root of this troubling frequency of young, strong arms breaking down? Verducci offers two correlated causes – velocity and volume. Young pitchers today are throwing harder than ever, more frequently than ever. They play year round, go to showcases, and always pitch at maximum velocity. As throwing a baseball is an unnatural motion, and throwing heat that exceeds 95 miles per hour puts enormous stress on the arm, going all out all the time is just not recommended for young bodies that are still maturing.

If you have a kid who is a pitcher, it’s well worth your time to read Verducci’s work, and to buck the trend of pushing young arms too hard. There’s no utility to putting any kid on the fast track when it’s likely to lead to injury – especially when a bit of moderation, reasonable rest and down periods, and learning how to pitch by conserving arm strength (rather than just throwing as hard as possible all the time) are all factors that in fact set a foundation for achievement.

How to Pitch Like a Big Leaguer
How to Pitch Like a Big Leaguer
How to Pitch Like a Big Leaguer

Baseball Pitcher via Shutterstock.com

 

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Tags: | Categories: Behavior, Health, Must Read, Red-Hot Parenting