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Child Development

Help Your Newborn Learn and Grow!

Written by Help Me Grow AmeriCorps VISTA, Keri Foster

Help Me Grow Washington is a free program dedicated to helping you understand and support your child’s development. To get started you can complete a doctor recommended Ages & Stages Questionnaire, an activity based survey that looks at your child’s ability to complete simple activities in five areas of development.

Here are some other fun activities to help your child learn and grow during their first year of life.

I am new.

In the first three months of life, your face is one of the first “objects” your newborn will recognize! Newborns are attracted to faces, bright lights, primary colors, and patterns. This is because their vision is blurry. You can encourage sensory development through play by introducing color, texture, and movement into your activities. Check out these fun activities that you and your child can do together.

Ribbon Play: To practice your child’s fine motor skills, dangle a brightly colored ribbon or scarf near your baby’s face. As they grasp for the ribbon, tug at it a little. When they practice reaching, grasping, and hanging on, they will build muscle and learn hand-eye coordination.

Heads Up: This activity helps to strengthen your child’s gross motor skills. What you will need is a sofa or bed and a bright colored toy. Place your baby on their stomach on the sofa and help your child rest his/her elbows. Then sit on the sofa and face your baby so that your eyes are at the same level as your baby’s. Dangle a bright colored toy in front of your baby’s face. Make sounds, talk, and sing to get your baby to lift their head and look at you. This activity helps strengthen the muscles in their stomach and neck so that they can learn how to hold their head up.

Bright Socks: This activity helps with problem-solving skills. You will need a blanket and a colorful sock. Place your baby on their back on a blanket on the floor. Put a brightly colored sock onto your baby’s foot. This helps your baby learn to look at their feet and encourages your baby to pull at their feet and grasp their foot.

For more activities like this visit our Pinterest page.

Prevention Matters: Vaccination and Developmental Screening Give Kids Best Start

When it comes to our health, we often have a natural tendency to focus on what we don’t know. This can be unhealthy and unproductive, especially if the body of literature about what we DO know is strong. One example of this is the unfounded fear that vaccines cause autism, an issue that relates to multiple bodies of work here at WithinReach.While much is unknown about the cause of autism, an overwhelming body of research refutes a connection to vaccines. In 1998, a falsified report fueled mistrust in the MMR vaccine. Before it was clear that this information was falsified, the scientific community set about researching the purported connection. The results? More than 20 high-caliber studies have refuted any connection between vaccines and autism.

Science implores us to never use the results of one study to make a claim. We use individual studies as calls for future inquiry, which is exactly how we ended up discounting the vaccine-autism connection: other scientists attempted to replicate the findings, and none could. So, what do we know about promoting optimal health in children? Health happens when you make a series of choices proven to have results. These choices include vaccinating as well as another priority at WithinReach: regularly screening children for developmental and behavioral concerns. Autism is a form of developmental delay. While we don’t know how to prevent autism, developmental screening is an accurate way to identify children with autism early, when interventions and treatments are dramatically more effective. In addition, screening is an ideal tool for teaching parents and caregivers about what typical development looks like and how they enhance development on a daily basis.

At WithinReach, we make the connections Washington families need to be healthy, and we don’t want parents to fall victim to false dualisms that create a cleavage between choices you need to make for your family to be healthy. When we focus on what we do know—in this case that vaccines don’t cause autism and that developmental screens create healthier kids throughout their lives—the outcome is a healthier and more vibrant community.

Tags: Autism   Child Development Screening   Vaccinations   

Our Favorite Children’s Books

This Saturday is National Book Lovers Day, and in honor of kids, books, and the joy they bring all of us, our staff took a trip down memory  lane, and share some of their favorite children’s books. We hope you are inspired to re-read a classic or grab a new book and read with the kids in your life!

Kate Allen: Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder  “I love it because life was so simple then.”

Alison Hoffarth: Not a Box by Antoinette Portis “A great way to remember that our imaginations are our greatest allies for fun!”

Tracy Anderson: Anatole by Eve Titus  “What’s not to love about a mouse who earns a living by tasting cheese and giving tips on how to improve it?”

Travis Bassett: Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. “I love the art, and the foreboding feeling you get from the first half is unusual for a children’s book.”

Anna Zimmerman: Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney  “I remember loving the beautiful illustrations of the sea and stretches of flowers in all shades of purple – and the message to spread beauty wherever you go.”

Kari Geiger: East of the Sun, West of the Moon, collected by Peter Christen Asbjornsen and Jorgen Moe “I love it because it’s about a normal girl who battles evil trolls to save her enchanted prince from his curse of being locked away as a polar bear in a mountain castle!”

Natasha Pietila: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnet “It reminds me of the transformative power of gardening, befriending animals and insatiable curiosity.”

Angela Ko: Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel. “Entertaining short stories with beautiful illustrations!”

Todd Faubion: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery  “This story teaches timeless lessons about life and love in a lyrical prose that encourages imagination and reflection.”

Dominique Shannon: Arthur book series by Marc Brown “I love it because I could watch the TV series or read the book, and I loved the fact that Arthur loved reading as much as I did!

Kirsten Leng: Green Eggs and Ham, Dr. Suess “Who doesn’t love Dr. Seuss? Fantastic message of trying the unknown…frequently quoted at our family dinner table “try it, try it and you may…”

Jefferson Rose: Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak “My grandma used to read it to me and make different voices for each of the characters.”

Stephanie Orrico: Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type, By Doreen Cronin, Illustrated by Betsy Lewin “The type-writing cows model calm negotiation, peaceful demonstration and the power of a written request!”

Sara Jaye Sanford: The Complete Tales of Winne-the-Pooh illustrations by Ernest H. Shepard, written by A.A. Milne “I have so many fond memories of my dad reading the original Pooh stories to us, and playing ‘Pooh sticks’ on hiking and camping trips.” (If you don’t know what that is you will have to check out the book!)

Mackenzie Melton: Blueberries for Sal, Robert McCloskey  “It reminds me of going huckleberry picking with my family as a child near our cabin at Lake Wenatchee.”

Cheri Ryan: Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak “I enjoy reading it to our foster child.”

Sydney Fang: Oh Oh, Baby Boy, Janine Macbeth “Because it celebrates engaged fathers and the boys they once were.”

What is your favorite children’s booK? Add it in the comments section!

Tags: Children's books   National Book Lovers Day   

New Grant Brings Focus to Teen Parents in Southeast Washington

The statistics below are examples of some of challenges associated with pregnant and parenting teens and their children, including low rates of on time high school graduation; elevated risk of physical, psychological and sexual abuse; increased likelihood of developmental delays in children of teen parents; as well as low lifetime earnings and higher instances of adverse childhood experiences for both teens and their children.

  • 56% of women who gave birth in Adams County in 2011 have less than a high school education.
  •  22% of pregnant and parenting teens experience some form of abuse surrounding the time of pregnancy.
  • 50% of Hispanic women in Washington will experience a pregnancy in their teen years.
  • 20% of children born to teen parents have developmental delays.

In order to address these challenges, the WithinReach Help Me Grow Washington program will be participating in a new four-year “Expectant and Parenting Teens, Women, Fathers and Families” federal grant that focuses on Grant, Adams, Franklin, and Yakima counties, where teen pregnancy rates are the highest in the state. WithinReach is excited to be partnering on the grant with the Washington State Department of Health, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, the Attorney General’s Office, Washington Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence and local service providers, all implementing strategies to support teen parents and improve education and health outcomes.

The goals of the project include increasing educational achievement of teen parents; reducing the number of subsequent pregnancies during the teen years; and enhancing child development, parenting skills, relationship skills and health literacy. The grant work has an emphasis on the local Hispanic population. This is because of the 997 teen births occurring in the four county region in 2011, 72% were born to Hispanic women. In addition, the Hispanic population is at particularly high risk for negative outcomes and may face the additional challenge of finding culturally and linguistically appropriate support services.

Help Me Grow Washington will serve as an evidence based program providing culturally and linguistically appropriate outreach, developmental screening services and connections to local resources and state benefit programs targeting teen parents in the region. This service is essential because children of teen parents are more likely to experience developmental delays and many teen parents are less comfortable accurately gauging their child’s developmental progress. Help Me Grow Washington services will increase the number of children with delays that are detected early and will also provide connections to care and to supportive services like Basic Food, low cost health insurance and parent support.

Tags: federal grant   Help Me Grow   teen pregnancy   Washington Department of Health   

Take Advantage of Your Child’s Brain Power

In Washington State, less than half of kindergarteners are considered school ready on their first day of kindergarten. Getting your child ready for school is more than buying No. 2 pencils and safety scissors; school readiness is the set of social, cognitive, pre-literacy, and self regulatory skills children need to thrive in a school environment.
Kindergarten readiness doesn’t start the last week of summer vacation – between birth and age three, over 700 new neural connections are formed in a child’s brain every second. As a parent, and your child’s first and most important teacher, here are 3 strategies to take advantage of your child’s early brain power.
1.    Storytelling: whether reading a picture book, making up a story or regularly asking your child to tell you about their day, storytelling builds early communication and pre-literacy skills. Kids not only increase their vocabulary, memory and language capacity, but they also learn about framing events on a linear timeline – a skill that is helpful when learning to read, follow directions and communicate clearly with others.
2.    Consistency and routine: As early as 3 months old, babies start to build memory skills. Consistency and repetition support memory by allowing infants and toddlers to build context, feel secure and practice remembering skills and activities. Routine is especially important to kindergarten readiness because kindergarten is highly structured. Children who are not familiar with these expectations may have a particularly difficult time adjusting.
3.    Encourage curiosity:  While it’s important to do this in a safe, kid-proofed environment, allowing time for unstructured exploration encourages sensory development and early problem solving skills. Infants are learning everything at once and using all of their senses. Think of this information gathering as research for toddlers. As kids use this information gathering to try new tasks (like fitting together stacking cups), they develop their ability to solve problems. As your child explores, mirror their laughter and expressions of excitement and narrate their activities rather than directing them.
To make sure your child is on track for school, call the WithinReach Family Health Hotline and ask about Help Me Grow Washington. Parents and caretakers can check in on their child’s development with a free developmental questionnaire they can complete at home. Participating families also receive age-specific activity suggestions that support healthy development through play; referrals for early learning and family support resources; and connections to extra developmental support for kids who need it.

Tags: Child Development   Help Me Grow   School readiness   

Early Detection Starts With Developmental Screening

Written by Help Me Grow Americorps VISTA member, Kate Imus

When I started my year of service as an AmeriCorps*VISTA  with the Help Me Grow Washington program, I was prepared for the work, but new to the topics of child development and developmental screening. Given my limited experience with kids, I was shocked to hear that an estimated 17% of children have developmental delays including speech articulation issues, ADHD and autism. Because only 30% of these kids are identified as delayed before starting kindergarten, often they have not had access to treatment, and many start kindergarten already behind. School readiness – or the cognitive, pre-literacy, social and self regulatory skills children need to succeed in a school environment – is essential for setting kids up for the best start in school and in life.

More surprising is that kids who aren’t school ready when they enter kindergarten are unlikely to catch up. They’re less likely to graduate on time, more likely to repeat grades, and more likely to be enrolled in long term special education. They even experience higher rates of teen pregnancy, delinquency, incarceration and low earnings.

Of course, not all kids who aren’t school ready will experience these outcomes, and school readiness is not just a concern for children with delays. But given the lifelong impact of school readiness and the success of early interventions like physical, occupational and speech therapy, there is ample incentive to try and detect as many kids with delays as possible, as early as possible.

Early detection starts with developmental screening. Screening is a quick and interactive way to get a snapshot of a child’s development and to see which kids may need further evaluation or support, but only 25% of Washington kids receive screening at any point. Because the early signs of delay may be hard to see, the best way to catch delays early – when treatment is most effective and outcomes are best – is to screen all kids regularly.

Free screening and other services are available for all WA kids up to age five through the Help Me Grow WA program.

Tags: Child Development   Developmental Screening   Help Me Grow   

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