Early Intervention, Early Intervention Clearinghouse

Learning Body Care Routines: Take It a Step at a Time

Very young children need support and opportunities to learn to carry out body care routines. The amount of support they need varies by the child’s age, skill level, and the amount of opportunities they have had to practice a particular skill. They begin learning the routines of body care even when they are young infants.

Caregivers can describe the steps and actions they are taking as they carry out diapering, dressing, and feeding cleanup routines. Saying, “I am wiping your chin with a washcloth to clean the applesauce dribbles” helps a child learn the words and actions associated with a body care routine. As an infant grows older, a caregiver might hand the child the washcloth and encourage him to wipe his own face.

Body care routines are wonderful times to practice skills. Young children use motor skills for manipulating washcloths, toothbrushes, combs, and other body care items. They use their thinking or cognitive skills to remember the steps in the correct order. They use language skills to describe the steps or ask for help. When they learn to do these things independently, they build confidence in their abilities and determination. This enhances their social and emotional development.

Teaching the steps and sequence involved in a body care task and mastering the motor skills to do each step can seem overwhelming job for caregiver. It often seems easier for adults to do these tasks for very young children. However as children grow bigger, it is important to remember that their desire for independence also increases. With planning and consistent effort, even very young children can participate in body care routines.

Your EI team can help you develop strategies to break down body care tasks and adapt them for your child’s ability. There are tools such as adaptive spoons or toothbrushes that can help children who need more motor support. Picture directions with a sequence of steps or teaching the final steps of a routine first and working backward can help you and your child feel a sense of success and be able to say, “You did it! Good job!”

A child does not have to be able to do every step of a body care routine by himself to participate. For example, let’s consider Laura, a 2-year-old who is learning to use a walker.

Her mom and her developmental therapist list out all of the steps in Laura’s handwashing routine at home. They decide who will do each step. Laura cannot climb up on a stepstool to reach the sink, so she will need an adult to help her get onto the stepstool to reach the sink. The faucet is also hard to turn, so mom will do that step for now.

Laura wants to pump the hand soap herself. She still needs some hand over hand help from mom to push the pump. She loves rubbing her hands together to make bubbles, and this is a step she can do by herself. Laura builds independence and confidence when her mom encourages her to try the steps in the process she can do, even though she may not be able to do the whole handwashing routine by herself until she is older.

Take it one step at a time and involve your child in daily care routines. Trying small steps can lead to big gains in independence and skill.

Originally written in collaboration with the EIC  staff for the EIC Newsletter: http://eiclearinghouse.org/newsletter/2017fall/.

 

Steps for Handwashing Who Can Do This?
1. Climb up on the stepstool to the sink Laura, with help
2. Turn on the water Mom
3. Wet your hands Laura
4. Pump soap on your palm Laura, with help
5. Rub hands together to make bubbles Laura
6. Rinse bubbles from hands Laura
7. Turn off the water Mom
8. Dry hands Laura
9. Climb down from stepstool Laura, with help
Early Intervention

Welcoming Families Receiving Early Intervention Services into Your Early Childhood Program

I have a new article in the September/October 2017 Issue of Child Care Exchange Magazine.

Welcoming Families Receiving Early Intervention Services into Your Early Childhood Program 

This article is intended to be used as a training guide for child care program staff. This article is free for Exchange subscribers and non-subscribers can download up to 5 articles for free each year by creating an account.

I would love to hear whether this article would be useful embedded in a course or in training sessions. Please contact me with your thoughts.

 

Early Intervention, Early Intervention Clearinghouse

Early Intervention Fits Right In

No two EI families are exactly alike. The daily activities that families participate in and the places they spend time vary. The Illinois Early Intervention program supports families in ways that are flexible, individualized, and tailored to the family’s preference. Early intervention staff and providers focus on partnering with families to work together to help infants and toddlers learn and develop. The routines and activities common in one family may be different than those in another family. Young children increase their knowledge and skills best when new activities and strategies are a part of that child’s regular routines and daily life.

The early intervention team approach revolves around helping families to use strategies that will help infants and toddlers develop their skills during everyday activities in their natural environments. Natural environments are home and community settings in which children and families with and without disabilities regularly participate. These spaces might look different for different families and different children. One child may spend most weekdays outside the home at a local child care center, while another child might have daily visits to grandma’s house. These places are the child’s natural environment. And early intervention services can fit right into these routines and spaces.

Many things influence the daily routines of infants and toddlers. Daily routines are a part of family life. Family life includes interactions with various family members, shared activities, and shared values and culture. Differences in family life are expected because there are no two families exactly alike. Some differences might include the types of first foods given to young children, whether children are encouraged to feed themselves, their family’s sleeping arrangements, the language used to communicate, and whether a child is encouraged to try to move about on the floor or whether they are carried for longer periods of time.

Cultural differences may influence child care and work arrangements. Some working families will choose to enroll their child in a child care center or home while others are more comfortable with care from a relative or friend. Some cultural influences may be more subtle, such as differences in how caregivers respond to children’s feelings. For example, some caregivers will allow children to fuss when upset and others will rock, bounce, or carry upset children to calm them.

High-quality EI services are provided to all families. Each family’s culture is reflected uniquely in their everyday life. The early intervention program empowers families as their child’s first teacher and learns from families how they embrace their cultural beliefs and practices to offer services that are meaningful.

This sharing begins during the initial screening and evaluation process in which the family describes their everyday routines and talks about their child’s challenges and strengths and continues as families begin to participate in the EI program when their child is deemed eligible.

This rich exchange of information will help the EI team plan interventions and strategies that fit into a family’s lifestyle and help the child learn to develop and grow to his or her fullest potential.

Originally written in collaboration with the Illinois EI Clearinghouse Staff for the Early Intervention Clearinghouse Summer 2017 Newsletter

Early Intervention, Early Intervention Clearinghouse

Teaming for Outcomes

In the early intervention (EI) program, the family, service coordinator, and EI professionals are a team. When an EI team gathers, the conversation often involves talking about outcomes. In early intervention, we use the word outcomes to describe what family members want to see happen for their child and their family as a result of their participation in the EI program. These outcomes are listed in the individual family service plan (IFSP). This plan identifies the family’s concerns and priorities for meeting their child’s needs.

Making progress toward outcomes is the result of the many small and big steps the family and EI service providers take as they work together. EI team members need to help each other understand the family’s routine so they can choose and use strategies that work well for the family. Let’s consider an example of how an EI team can work together to plan strategies for a toddler to reach an IFSP outcome related to communication.

Lucy is 24 months old. She receives EI services for a delay in language development. When Lucy’s family and their EI team meet to write her IFSP, they decide one overall outcome they want to work toward is encouraging Lucy to give a verbal response when she normally would point or nod. The team talks about times during everyday routines that Lucy’s family could encourage her to use words and build her vocabulary.

Lucy’s family loves to play outside. The team decides to have a speech therapy session at the playground to develop strategies to encourage Lucy to use her words. The speech therapist and her family practice ways to encourage Lucy to respond with words and increase Lucy’s vocabulary. Now, when Lucy gets to the bottom of the slide, her dad says, “That was fun! The slide is slippery and fast. Do you want to slide again?” He waits, and then if Lucy responds by shrieking with delight, he says, “You are excited! Tell me ‘yes’ if you want to slide again.” “Ess!” says Lucy.

Every park playtime becomes an opportunity to work toward the outcome of improving Lucy’s language skills. By encouraging Lucy to use more words and continuing to use descriptive words himself, Lucy’s dad helps her take more and more steps toward their outcome of using her words to communicate.

Focusing on daily routines is how EI teams meet IFSP outcomes. This EI Clearinghouse newsletter contains resources you can use to support language development at home, understand who is on your EI team, and work together toward outcomes. With every little step, an EI team gets closer to achieving IFSP outcomes as well as building a strong foundation for future growth.

Originally Written in collaboration with the  Illinois Early Intervention Clearinghouse Staff for the Spring 2017 Newsletter

Early Intervention, Early Intervention Clearinghouse

Let’s Move!

Infants and toddlers are people on the move! They use their bodies as tools for discovery. We see them wiggling, reaching, creeping, crawling, scooting, cruising, walking, dancing, and even running. These are some of the ways infants and toddlers demonstrate their “gross motor” or large movement skills.

We also see them wiggle their fingers and toes, grasp objects with their hands, and pick up tiny objects with their fingertips. These are considered small body movements, often called “fine motor” skills, which also include oral motor skills. We see infants develop muscle control in their mouths as the sounds they make change rapidly from cries, to coos, to babbles, and eventually to words.

One reason many families connect with the early intervention program is that they have concerns about their child’s motor development. Families may worry that their child is not reaching milestones or moving in a typical manner. It is important to remember that each child follows an individual timeline in meeting specific motor milestones. Because of these individual differences, caregivers may find it helpful to know three key ideas that explain the progression of motor development of infants and toddlers.

Motor development starts at the head and moves down to the toes.

Newborn infants do not have control of their heads. They first develop control of their head and neck muscles and develop the ability to hold their heads up and look around. Next infants develop control of their core muscles and arms (trunk) as they learn to roll and sit up. When these core muscles are strong, they develop more control of their legs as they learn to pull to a stand, walk with support, and eventually walk unassisted.

Motor development starts from the center of the body and moves outward.

Initially, infants move their limbs in an uncontrolled way, often because of their primitive reflexes. To progress in development, these innate reflexes must disappear first. As they mature, they begin to move their limbs intentionally. First, they make larger movements with their arms and legs, and as they mature, they will start to develop the small muscles of their hands, feet, and mouths.

Motor development is first general and then becomes specific.

This means infants will first use their large muscles more generally, and as they grow they will develop more precise motor abilities. For example, as infants begin to get control of their limbs, they make swiping movements at toys and objects. Over time, they develop the ability to grasp objects in their palm and then eventually to use the tiny muscles of their fingers to pick up small objects such as small pieces of fruit or cereal.

These big ideas about motor development can help you understand the progression of motor skills you see your child display. Think creatively and consider your everyday routines. You can support your child’s motor development by providing opportunities for her to move and discover the world.

If you have more questions, talk to your service coordinator or early intervention provider.

Written in collaboration with the Illinois Early Intervention Clearinghouse Staff for the Winter 2017 Newsletter.

Early Intervention, Early Intervention Clearinghouse

Tune Into Your Child’s Sensory Experience to Support Development and Learning

Young children in early intervention (EI) may need extra support and patience as they explore the sensory world around them. Together, families and the EI team can plan for enjoyable sensory play and experiences that can give them the extra support they need to confidently explore their world.

Caregivers may wonder about these big variations in behavior among children. Caregivers may want to know which responses to these experiences are typical and which are not (atypical). A caregiver may even find that a child could show interest and fear at different times—even in response to the same experience. How is it possible that the responses of children could be so different? Families and the EI team can work together to figure out a child’s pattern and support her unique developmental needs. Consider the examples below:

“Beep, beep—vroom!” Joey, a 9-month-old infant, loves riding in the car. He smiles and kicks his legs and waves his arms when his mom puts him in the car. His mom hears him giggling when they drive on bumpy roads and when the engine revs up. Lily, also 9 months old, dislikes riding in the car. She cries when her dad buckles the car seat and screams when the engine rumbles or the horn beeps.

“Splish, splash, bubble bubble!” Hui, a 12-month-old, crawls over to the bathtub with a big smile on her face and pulls up on the edge of the tub when she hears the water running. After her grandma places her in the bath, she kicks her legs and plunges her hands into the water. Brandon, also 12 months old, crawls away from the bathroom when he hears the water running and protests when his mom puts him in the bathtub. He reaches up his arms toward her with a frown on his face.

In the above examples, both responses are typical of young children’s behavior. Infants and toddlers are developing their ability to process and understand different sensory experiences. It is helpful for adults to remind themselves that the world is a new place for them. These very young children are discovering what kinds of textures, sounds, tastes, smells, and sights the world contains and what these experiences feel like to their bodies and what these experiences mean.

Electric hand dryers, flushing toilets, thunderstorms, and fire sirens are all loud sounds. Some children hear these sounds and are frightened. Others hear these sounds and are very excited and interested. In time, children learn what these sounds mean. For example, the flashing lights and sirens from a fire truck mean firefighters are going to help someone. Knowing the sounds means someone in trouble is receiving help, and getting used to the volume and intensity of the sound of the siren after hearing it many times can make this sensory experience less scary.

Families and EI providers can tune into a child’s sensory experience by watching her response to different sounds, tastes, textures, smells, and sights. Does she go toward loud sounds or turn away from them? Does he like vigorous swinging or does he cry in the swing? Does she laugh and smile at light tickly touches on her toes or relax and respond to firm pressure on her feet? By observing these differences, caregivers and an EI team can work together to provide opportunities that are “just right” for an individual child and help her learn about her world. This EI Clearinghouse newsletter will provide you with resources and ideas for everyday sensory play that can support the learning and development of young children.

Originally written in collaboration with the Illinois Early Intervention Clearinghouse Staff for the Fall 2016 Newsletter

Early Intervention, Early Intervention Clearinghouse

Everyday Fun: Spaces!

Familiar spaces are comfortable places to learn and grow. There are many familiar places to take your child regularly, such as the library, the grocery store, or the doctor’s office. For you, they are routine, but for young children, these places are fascinating and new.

Infants and toddlers with and without disabilities naturally explore the world, and they are excited to discover the “new” in their spaces. Perhaps you have seen an infant looking intently at a toy that is just out of arms reach. She might stretch her arm as far as she can until she finds herself rolling onto her belly and grasping the toy. You may have seen a toddler crouching on the sidewalk to watch ants crawl. He might point to the ants and look at his mom with a puzzled expression to let her know he wants to know more about these insects. Curiosity motivates all young children to explore the spaces around them. Opportunities to learn and grow happen naturally when we tune into this curiosity and share in the excitement of discovery with children.

Many families experience challenges when balancing household tasks, community obligations, early intervention, and work. Laundry, cooking, EI providers, and errands always seem to take more time than we expect. The day fills up quickly when you add busy children playing and making a mess to the mix. Families may feel even more time pressure when they try to think of ways to incorporate EI strategies into everyday routines in familiar and new spaces. Adults can more easily do this when they tune into the excitement and curiosity that infants and toddlers have about exploring their spaces. Your child is like a traveler in a new land, and you are the tour guide! A good tour guide talks about everything he sees, smells, touches, and tastes.

Want to make the most of your time with your child to help them grow? Look at your spaces and find many opportunities to explore and grow together. Awaken your senses as you go about your day. Here are some ideas to help you get started.

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Enjoy the outdoors! Your child may notice the birds, squirrels, and plants outside.

  • Watch your child’s face to see where she is looking. The outdoors is a great opportunity to build language skills.
  • Talk with your child about what she is seeing. You can expose her to rich vocabulary words when describing the colors you see, sounds you hear, and scents you smell. You are introducing your child to concepts such as opposites when you describe the warm sun versus the cold snow. These conversations build her cognitive abilities.
  • Make time to climb or cruise around the playground to build your child’s gross motor skills. Crawling is a new experience when you are moving on the soft grass.

Discover treasures indoors! Your home has treasures that your child will enjoy discovering.

  • Your kitchen space may be filled with safe items to discover, such as wooden spoons, measuring cups, and unbreakable bowls. Practice stacking and nesting these items with your child. This builds his spatial awareness. Pretend to cook and feed each other with older infants and toddlers. Pretend play is a natural way to develop social skills such as turn-taking and manners.
  • You might place a few “treasure baskets” in different rooms of your home where you can put items that are safe for your child to explore. Remember, even the laundry basket is full of interesting textures, colors, shapes, and sizes to talk about!
  • Help your child master gross-motor spaces such as stairs, ramps, and furniture.

Tour new places and familiar spaces!

  • Many places that you visit regularly are routine to you but may be fascinating and new to your child. You can explore the library, the grocery store, or the doctor’s office with your child. Explain what others might be doing as they move around you.
  • Adventure out with your child to a new place that makes you curious. This may help you share the excitement of discovery that your child experiences in familiar places.
  • Walk at a different playground, stroll around a museum, or explore a local cultural festival. Ask questions and wait for your child to answer or indicate his interest by turning his eyes toward you or pointing at things he sees. Respond to your own questions and be a language model for your child.
 Originally written in collaboration with the Illinois Early Intervention Clearinghouse Staff for the Spring 2016 Newsletter.

 

Early Intervention, Early Intervention Clearinghouse

Healthy Sleep Key to First Few Years

You give your toddler a kiss, tuck her in her little bed, and then she cries, “No! No night night! Don’t go!” You hand her a favorite toy bunny, tell her you will be around the corner, and close the door. You hear tiny feet shuffling down the hallway just as you enter the kitchen to finish the dinner dishes. Your toddler is out of bed. You walk her back to her bed. You tuck her in and close the door. She returns a few minutes later. You let out a big sigh and walk her down the hall again.

Tonight’s game of bedtime ping-pong is going strong. Your child is the ball and she’s bouncing between her bed and the kitchen. You are frustrated and tired. You start to wonder whether the bedtime fight is worth your energy. Where is the coach with a pep talk that can keep you motivated in this tough moment so you can help your child sleep? Here are a few reasons to keep trying to win the bedtime game:

Healthy sleep promotes brain development. The brains of infants and toddlers are growing during sleep times. The brain grows rapidly during this time of life. Sleep times during the first three years of life are especially important for healthy brain development.

Healthy sleep promotes self-regulation. Self-regulation refers to how the brain and body work together to control emotions, attention, and thoughts. Self-regulation is the foundation of early childhood development. A well-rested child has an easier time coping with big emotions and transitions through the day. Proper rest helps children sustain attention during play. Well-rested children have an easier time learning and exploring new things because of their increased ability to self-regulate.

Healthy sleep is important for physical health. New research indicates proper rest is connected to healthy growth patterns. A well-rested child is better able to fight off illness, maintain a healthy body weight, and have better overall physical health. Certain hormones that help with the repair and growth of cells are only released during deep sleep. Research also indicates that the whole family’s health is improved when parents and other adults who live with young children get healthy sleep.

Mindfulness, or being aware of our own feelings in the moment, can be an important way to manage stress. Bedtime battles are stressful for caregivers during all stages of early development.

Challenges can begin from the newborn days with a fussy baby who is difficult to soothe, into the infant stage when your baby stands in the crib crying, and continue to the toddler times when your child keeps leaving his bed for one more kiss or hug.

If your child was in the neonatal intensive care unit or has had health issues that interfere with sleep such as sleep apnea, you may find yourself continuing to worry about your child’s health during sleep. Your child senses your stress level, and this can make it hard for a child to calm down. This is because young children and their caregivers are connected through emotions.

As a caregiver, try taking a few deep breaths and saying to yourself or your child, “I’m helping you with sleep so your brain and body can grow.” Imagine warm and cozy thoughts. Remember that your children’s sleep space is a haven that allows them time to grow and develop.

This mindful self-talk can help you keep focused on your goal of helping your child sleep. Being calm in the moment can help you soothe your child. Talk with your child’s health care providers or your EI providers to come up with a sleep plan that is workable for your family.

This issue’s EI Note contains ideas for creating a healthy sleep space and routine for your child, and we hope you will find many ideas that will help your family have restful and restorative sleep so you will have energy to play and learn together.

Originally written for the Illinois Early Intervention Clearinghouse Fall 2015 Newsletter