MAC News Summaries for 2014

The following news summaries address early intervention and preschool areas and issues for 2013-2014:

  1. Reading aloud to children from birth enhances vocabulary and other communication skills that are the foundation for later academic success. 62,000 pediatricians across the country asked its members to encourage reading aloud every time the infant visits the doctor, explaining the “reading together is a daily family fun activity.”  Children are to be kept away from computers and TV until they are age 2.  Gaps in achievement for infants not exposed to daily language experiences appear as early as 18 months.  Parents need to understand why it is important to stick to books instead of portable digital media. (Pediatrics Group to Recommend Reading Aloud to Children From Birth, Motoko Rich, The New York Times, 6/24/14).
  2. Rhythmic experiences and the power of the musical beat may make people more cooperative, even babies as early as 14 months.  Music forms social bonds early in development that affect everything that happens later, including learning. (The Rhythm of Helpful Babies, The New York Times, 7/1/14).
  3. Delaying the clamping of the umbilical cord at least a minute after birth allows more time for blood to move from the placenta, improving iron store and hemoglobin levels in new bors, without risk to the mother.  Current research shows that clamping often occurs too quickly after delivery.  The study did not include women with Caesarean sections. (Study Finds Benefits in Delaying Severing of the Umbilical Cord, Catherine Saint Louis, The New York Times, 7/11/13).
  4. Analysis of the placenta after birth may provide clues about the child’s risk for autism.  There is something quite different in the placentas from families with high genetic risk for autism in that they had abnormal folds and creases. The more of these creases, the greater the risk for severe abnormality. This can provide a biomarker for babies at high risk for the disorder. (Study Ties Autism Risk To Creases in Placenta, Pam Belluck, The New York Times, 4/25/13)
  5. Prenatal diagnosis, a routine part of obstetric care, is looking at revolutionary developments. Tests for more than 800 genetic disorders have been developed. Screening fetal genetic fragments found in the mother’s blood is the newest screening test, done late in the first trimester. It is not yet approved by the Food and Drug administration and is recommended only for women at high risk.  Down Syndrome is the most common chromosomal abnormality. (Breakthroughs in Prenatal Screens, Jane E. Brody, The New York Times, 8/8/13)
  6. Siblings of children with disabilities are more likely to need mental health services, early assessment and intervention. These data came from a study using 6564 siblings in homes with a disabled child and typically developing children. (Assessing Functional Impairment in Siblings Living With Children With Disability, Goudie, A. et al, Pediatrics, 7/29/13).
  7. Mandates for more preschools and President Obama’s focus on early-childhood education has called teacher training into question. There is discussion as to whether or not a college degree is required to teach preschool. The President has said that teachers must be qualified but there is no agreement as to what that means. A 4 year college degree provides a base training for those in the field, but the quality of the interaction between the child and teacher is seen as primary. Obama said that preschool teachers should have a, “coach who’s coming in and working with them on best practices.” (Obama Preschool Proposal Stirs Debate Over Training, Sandra Sawchuk, Education Week, 3/6/13).
  8. States are providing less funding for schools than before the recession in 2008. This decline in investment is cause for concern.
    1. 34 states provide less funding per student for 2013-2014 than before the recession, 123 cutting per pupil spending by more than 10%. These cuts undermine education reform and school district’s ability to provide high quality education, damaging the economy now and in the future.
    2. 15 states provide less funding to school districts than one year ago.
    3. Where funding has increased it did not make up for cuts in the past.

(Most States Funding Schools Less Than Before the Recession, Michael Leachman & Chris Mai, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 9/12/13).

  1. Special education students in overcrowded schools had been provided with space to meet their special needs. Overcrowding in kindergarten poses threats that children will suffer and not have their special needs met, especially in an inclusive environment. (Will overcrowding undermine special education reform, Meredith Kolodner, Inside Schools, 3/13/12).
  2. Early Intervention nationally serves about 2.8% of young children eligible under Part C of IDEA. However, between 2% and 78% of children per state should be eligible, according to the journal, Pediatrics. Most children do not take advantage of early intervention services, and states provide services like speech and occupational therapy to no more than 7% of its children.  More uniform eligibility standards for services are needed. (Study Questions Early Intervention Eligibility Criteria, Shaun Heasley,  Disability Scoop, 1/9/13)
  3. Babies learn bits of their native language before they are born. By 30 weeks gestation, he can make out the mother’s voice, and recognize the vowel sounds of the language. (Babies Seem to Pick Up Language in Utero, The New York Times, 1/8/13).
  4. Persistence, self-control, curiosity, conscientiousness, grit, and self-confidence are more crucial to success than sheer brain power.(How Children Succeed, Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, Paul Tough, 231 pp., Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)