Selected articles are available in text format. 2018 Spring Newsletter
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Positive Talk Builds Confidence

Babies and toddlers tune into messages from their caregivers. They are aware of their caregivers’ emotions and listen to their words. Because very young children are deeply connected with and tuned into their caregivers, it is vital that parents and caregivers be mindful about sharing messages that are a source of encouragement and positive energy.

Turning “don’t climb on the coffee table!” into “let’s go find a safe place in the back yard for you to climb” or turning “stop screaming!” into “I hear you’re angry when I tell you there’s no more cereal” can help caregivers feel calmer. Young children also follow positive directions more readily than negative discouragements.

Positive talk is not only beneficial for babies and toddlers. Positive talk and positive thinking also are important for parents and caregivers of children receiving early intervention services. Negativity can rear its ugly head when we are feeling discouraged or feeling impatient. Families in early intervention may be coping with their child’s complex medical or educational needs. Their development may not follow the typical progression of peers their age. This can lead to a negative cycle of thinking that gets in the way of noticing the important progress an infant or toddler is making in early intervention.

We can mindfully acknowledge these negative thoughts and reframe them with positive thinking, which can help us keep a positive attitude as we work toward EI outcomes. Reframing doesn’t make our sadness or frustration go away, but it can help us be more resilient and optimistic about the challenges we face with our child.

Here are a few examples of reframing negative thoughts into more positive ones.

When you think “my child can’t hear my voice due to hearing loss,” reframe it by thinking, “I know I am connecting with my child when we look into each other’s eyes.”

“My toddler cries and falls apart because he can’t use words to tell me what he wants” can become “we’re working on learning important words in sign language to help him communicate.”

“My friends are celebrating their babies’ first steps, but my child can’t walk” can become “Let’s enjoy my child’s new crawling skills by trying to climb on a pile of pillows to help build her muscles.”

You Are What Your Child Needs

Parents and caregivers of infants and toddlers often describe moments when they are watching, waiting, wondering, and worrying about their young children. They wonder whether their fussy baby is getting enough sleep or worry about whether their picky toddler is eating enough fruit and vegetables. They may find it hard to wait for a child to begin to crawl or talk and wonder about when their child may reach this milestone.

The love that parents and caregivers of young children feel for their rapidly changing infants and toddlers may be part of the reason this worrying and wondering begins. Parents and caregivers want to give infants and toddlers the best start they can. It is normal to worry whether they have enough resources or knowledge to help their child reach their fullest potential. They may wonder whether having more books, more toys, or signing their child up for more classes is what their child needs to grow and thrive. They may spend time worrying and wondering whether they are giving their child enough. This worry can lead to discouragement and feelings of inadequacy as a parent or caregiver. They may wonder: “Am I what my child needs?”

Each child in early intervention develops on a unique timeline. Early intervention families may find themselves worrying or wondering about whether their child is doing okay as they watch their child and wait for their child to reach particular milestones or skills. It can be difficult to avoid comparing your child’s progress to those of infants and toddlers who do not have a developmental delay or disability. This comparison can cause even more worry, which can be overwhelming.

In these moments, it is important to remember that you are what your child needs. He needs a loving caregiver who wants to help him grow. Every time you interact with your child by talking, playing, and doing daily tasks, you are building your child’s brain and helping his body become stronger and more skillful. You also are not alone. Reach out to your EI team, family, and friends for support and help.

Remember as a parent or primary caregiver, you have the most interactions and opportunities to watch your child discover her world. Share your observations and the things you wonder about with your EI team.

Sometimes you will need to wait to connect with an EI team member until the next EI session. While you wait, you can write down, video, or photograph the behaviors or skills you are wondering about.

Reaching out to your EI team can help you set aside worries about whether you are giving your child all that he needs. Remember, you are what your child needs! Involved, caring parents and caregivers working with their EI team to achieve outcomes give children a strong start.

State Systemic Improvement Plan (SSIP) Third Quarter Update

Phase III, Year 2 is wrapping up, and SSIP activities continue across the state. Local leadership teams (LTs) and CFCs in the three pilot areas (Aurora, Williamson County, and East St. Louis) continue to offer professional development and focused conversations around the Child Outcomes Summary process.

The next major activity in the SSIP is building capacity for the use of family-centered practices. Five of the DEC Recommended Practices will drive the majority of this work. A resource package of activities to support family engagement will be developed to support the LTs with this activity.

The annual report on the SSIP was due to the Office of Special Education Programs on April 2, 2018. This report will be available on the IDHS website at http://www.dhs.state.il.us/page.aspx?item=36192

We welcome everyone’s input, so if you have any comments, please e-mail them to cguillen@illinois.edu.