A baby is born in the hospital one month early. The baby does very well and only stays in the NICU for one day; they all go home as a family on day four. The baby goes to all of its well-check visits and is growing just like he should be. There have been a few issues along the way such as language and not eating very well but nothing that was of real concern. Then the child turns 4 and at his well check visit, the doctor starts to notice the child is not communicating like he should be. The parent asks well how could this happen? He was doing fine up until now. Ages 3-4 is when language disparities start to occur; so it's not that the doctor missed any signs, it's the fact that language is not found to be an issue until later. Could this language barrier been prevented?
The answer is yes. There is a program in Nebraska called Child Find. The purpose of this program is to serve infants and toddlers who have developmental delays or disabilities. It also provides services to the child's family as it relates to the child's special needs. This program is free to the families. So if there is a concern for a child in your family, a screen can be provided for free, even is the child does not qualify they will still have some follow up to make sure everything is going well.
Why is early intervention so important?
Let's start with the brain. The first three years of life are the most flexible and pliable for brain development. A baby’s brain has 700 new neural connections per second and 40,000 per second during serve and return. Serve and return is as simple as the baby babbling and you babble back to the baby or the baby smiles and you smile back. They baby is literally getting 40,000 neural connections with that simple of a task. All it takes is the adult paying attention to the baby and returning communication.
What can I do at home to enhance my baby's learning?
Read books to your baby. I personally know that my babies loved Peek-A-Who, anything with animals, and Where's Spot? picture books that have flaps are great way for baby to start to open/close objects and use their little fingers. The American Academy of Pediatric recommends no screen time until the baby is two! Work on physical skills such as sitting, rolling, standing, walking, and reaching for toys. Babies can be in strollers and bouncers but they need to get on the floor and move.
What can I do to enhance my toddler’s learning?
If it's nice go outside and play in the dirt. Children love the outdoors as they learn to listen to the cars go by, the feel of dirt in their hands, etc. Speak to your toddler on their level. This helps them understand you are talking to them and not over them. Read books, sing songs, throw a ball, put together puzzles, color, make construction paper projects, or work on counting. There are countless activities that help a toddler learn. Screen time should be kept to less than two hours per day.
Who provides for the baby?
The parents provide for the baby. They are vital for the baby to thrive in their environment. If stable relationships, safe and supportive environments, and appropriate nutrition are not available, the baby will not thrive. A baby cannot learn to roll on the ground if the floor is not safe. A toddler cannot focus on language if their stomach is hungry. The necessities of life have to come first, then the child can learn.
It's hard to be a parent but it can also be fun. Don't forget kids love you unconditionally and we should provide for them the best that we can. If there is ever a concern about the development of a child have them assessed through Child Find, just contact your local school. That way the child can receive the necessities he needs to learn and grow.