Monday, January 31, 2022

More Newborn Educational Goals

In December, I posted about the first things I'll be working on teaching my child when they're born. Here's an update, because as it's turned out, I've found some more goals to track. These goals are in the category I referred to as Language in the previous post, but have since renamed Communication.

I got these goals from an assessment titled Social Communication Skills - The Pragmatics Checklist. This assessment asks parents to rate a variety of communication acts in their child on one of four levels, depending on whether their child doesn't communicate that thing at all, communicates it nonverbally, communicates it with simple language (1-3 words), or communicates it with complex language. The assessment was studied with hearing, hard-of-hearing and deaf children aged 2-7 years old. At age 2, most of the hearing children studied were using most of these skills with simple language and a few with complex language, while deaf and hard-of-hearing children lagged behind.

I coded each items as three separate goals, for the three language levels. Since most 2 year olds are working on simple to complex language for most of these skills, I had to put the nonverbal versions of those skills earlier, drawing upon research and my own general knowledge of child development. Three of these items ended up being relevant for 0-3 month olds.

Here's the goals:

  • Makes requests nonverbally (SCS-PC 1-1)
  • Complains nonverbally (SCS-PC 13-1)
  • Requests help nonverbally (SCS-PC 5-1)

Note that I modified SCS-PC 1 to drop the "polite" stipulation. SCS PC 16 is about interacting with others in a polite manner, so including politeness in this item as well is somewhat redundant. Besides, I don't really mind if my child is communicating their requests to me in a way that reads as rude to other people. And how does polite vs rude even apply to the earliest stages of language development?

The benefits of these skills for my child is giving them a basic ability to let others know their wants, needs and dislikes, so that we can help ensure that they are comfortable and happy. In addition, complaining has its own benefits - even if no one can fix it, expressing your feelings and knowing other people sympathize can be cathartic. Sometimes you just need to know someone's there while you sort through your feelings.

My child has already begun showing progress on SCS-PC 13, incidentally. As I mentioned before, in late November, I tried shining a flashlight on my belly to observe my child's response, and my child spent a couple hours vigorously thrashing in response, which I've interpreted as a distress response. In addition, on December 23, I had an anatomy scan ultrasound, and after awhile, my child seemed to get overwhelmed, turned to face towards my back, and refused to move. Afterwards, they also wiggled around for awhile similarly to the flashlight event, and only settled down when my Dad placed a kalimba on my belly and played it. So, my child has already shown nonverbal indicators of what they like and dislike.

One of the main things I'm planning to do to work on these goals is simply to respond to potential communication attempts in meaningful ways. If I think my child is requesting something, I'll either give it to them or explain why I can't. If they seem to be complaining about something, I'll verbalize what I think they're feeling and offer comfort. If they seem to want help with something, I'll offer them help. This should help them realize that their actions have the power to influence how I treat them, and start intentionally trying to communicate with me.

In research on parenting styles, one particularly beneficial strategy for building emotional regulation and communication skills is responsive (or sensitive) parenting. Responsive parenting refers to a parent who honors their child's emotions and adjusts their own interaction pattern accordingly, offering support when the child is feeling vulnerable and encouragement when they're exploring the outside world.

In the 0-3 month age group, mostly, this means not ignoring the baby's cries, as well as adjusting how much stimulation you offer based on signals of interest vs overload the baby gives off.

I've already shown the first steps towards this by trying to interpret what my baby's wiggles mean about their mental state and not repeating stimuli that I believe causes them distress - for example, I haven't used a flashlight on my belly after that one time. Once my child is born, I'll have a lot more access to information about how they're feeling, and I can work on tuning into that and matching my actions to my child's emotional needs.

I've also, since well before my child's conception, been working on building my own emotional resilience and self-care, so that I'm more likely to be in a mental state where I'm actually capable of focusing on my child's feelings instead of drowning in my own. I'll continue to try to prioritize my own mental health needs and make sure I'm feeling well enough to parent effectively.

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