SITTING IN A CIRCLE around Renee Bock, Chief Academic Officer of ExploreDiscover Early Learning Center members heard Renee she shared her journey to becoming an early childhood expert, revealing that she was once a self-described 'Early Intervention'-denying Mom. (One her three sons did very much need EI, something that she, like quite a few parents, first resisted.)
After speaking generally about early childhood development, she gave us handouts that detailed a few different assessment methods and associated check lists and observation tools (posted in the Files section of our BigTent community members' only website) to aid parents in thinking in a more structured way about child development. She spoke at length about the RIE method, popular in the LA area, and, with some modifications, being used by ExploreDiscover. The benefit of using methods and tools to structure one's thinking about development, she pointed out, is that then a parents can carefully and systematically observe their children to determine if they think there might be a concern. Then she moved on to discuss the three most important things that she felt parents should keep in mind.
- Try to avoid measuring one twin against the other, as they may be working on different areas and at different paces; personality also plays a role here.
- If you feel in your gut - not based on what've you read, what others say, etc - that something is 'off,' get an assessment. Not because you want the 'perfect child,' but because often early intervention means that there is a much greater likelihood of the child being able to 'catch up' in the weak area, and no longer need the intervention.
- Don't rely on pediatricians: Given the limited interactions that they have with your children, and the time pressure that they are under, unless there is something glaringly wrong, pediatricians often have a 'don't worry' attitude. Renee encouraged parents to go with their gut, and to pay attention to other people who spend significant amounts of time with their children, such as caregivers or family members. Use developmental charts if needed to help ask questions or discuss the issue with others who know your children well.
The 'aha-ha' moment of her talk was when she gave us a new, helpful way to view about child development and special needs: in fact, ALL children have special needs!
Each child has his/her very own individual development path, which will be strewn with obstacles personal to that child, given his or her specific motor,cognitive and social skills, as well as temperament. Each child's needs at any given moment will be particular to him/her; some will need more targeted, special help at times to be successful in achieving their development tasks. She also noted that parents can help their children develop resilient and flexible temperaments, and noted that temperament plays an important role in how children approach and respond to the challenges of development. She noted that our goal as parents should be to provide children with what they need at that moment to help them develop to their potential.
Then we got right into the meat of the evening: Renee fielded parents' specific questions and lead the group to share their experiences. Given that our group was primarily parents of infants/very young children, questions and discussion focused on those stages, with talk about feeding, motor skills, and more. We didn't stop until 8:30P, when Renee also gave us a short classroom tour of ExploreDiscover, highlighting some of the toys used (many for the very young were homemade from common household objects) to support development.