Tag Archives: Child

Out and about: Visiting the Children’s Developmental Center

Open House at the Children's Developmental Center.

As anyone in my office (or my family) will tell you, I spend way too many hours with my eyes glued to my laptop screen. So I appreciate a good excuse to escape the virtual world and drop into the real one.

Last week I said “yes” to an invitation to attend an open house at the newly opened Children’s Developmental Center at Easter Seals Southwest Human Development in Phoenix. This place, despite its big name, is all about little people. Specifically about understanding little people and what makes them tick.

The center is staffed by a team of professionals — in medicine, psychology, physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy and more — who combine their expertise to evaluate children for developmental delays or disabilities and collaborate to recommend interventions.

I stepped off the elevator to a spacious area with cheerful, lemon-colored walls above wooden pegboard paneling. A huge fish tank commanded attention in a waiting area at one end of the room, where pint-sized tables and chairs and a variety of toys welcomed young visitors.

I met people I have read about and admired for years, including Ginger Ward (founder of Southwest Human Development) and Daniel B. Kessler, M.D., a developmental and behavioral pediatrician with a long history at St. Joseph’s Hospital & Medical Center who was recently named medical director of the Children’s Developmental Center. I met Terrence Matteo, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist and director of the Children’s Developmental Center, and had a chance to thank him for an article he wrote for our October magazine on helping babies sleep.

A sign pointed visitors down the hallway to “The playrooms.” The center has four, each of which can be set up in specific ways to help the experts make assessments for issues that may be impeding a child’s physical, intellectual, emotional or social development.

The first playroom was set up to evaluate children for autism. “What do you look for?” I asked.

“We look at the level of development of their play,” Matteo told me. “Are they rigid in their play? Are they using items in a way not intended? Are they banging cars together [instead of "driving" them around the room]? Are they throwing the plates? Are they able to request toys? What’s their level of social communication?” Such sessions are videotaped from a small, dark room behind a one-way glass window so that the multi-disciplinarian team of professionals can work together to make an assessment, and offer recommendations to the parents.

Another playroom was set up for feeding evaluations. Children who are referred to the center for such observation may be exhibiting anything from difficulty swallowing to muscle-related speech impediments. This room also has a one-way mirror behind which several professionals observe parents and their children interact.

Lorenzo Castillo enjoys playing in the room set up as a kitchen. He visited the open house with his grandmother, Veronica Castillo of Phoenix.

The room is set up like a kitchen — with small tables and chairs, toy appliances and a variety of plastic foods scattered about on tabletops and counters. The experts watch to see what happens. Does the child show interest or apathy? Does the child play with the pretend food or avoid touching it? Does the parent engage in play, guiding it with inquisitive comments and gestures, or sit passively and watch? The smallest observations can help the professionals piece together the puzzle to help them understand why some children do not enjoy the process of eating and do not grow and thrive as they should.

Plastic food set out for a feeding assessment. "Children learn to eat through play," Matteo says.

Before they even get to this room, the family has undergone a home visit by one of the center’s professionals so that interactions can be observed in the context of comfortable surroundings.

“With babies and young children, everything is so intertwined — parent, child, society, environment,” Matteo says. “You don’t want to look at the child in isolation.”

This is is a time-intensive, ideal, “best practices” approach to early childhood development assessment and intervention — and it’s not cheap. That’s where Development Director Laura Chasko comes in. It is her job it is to seek grants and donations to support this work.

The center works with families to avoid or minimize out-of-pocket expenses through qualification for primary and secondary insurance reimbursement and DDD, AzEIP, or school district eligibility. Any out-of-pocket expenses are reviewed under a sliding fee scale consideration.

“Our goal is to serve 300 families each year,” Laura told me. Right now, as they work to get the word out, there is not even a waiting list.

Learn more about the center’s approach and scope of services here. And if you are worried about your child’s development or behavior, contact the center at 602-468-3430 or email CDcenter@swhd.org.

Southwest Human Development is Arizona’s largest nonprofit child development agency, providing programs and support for more than 135,000 children ages birth to 5 and their families. In addition to the Children’s Developmental Center, the organization provides programs including the  A.D.A.P.T Shop, the Birth to Five Helpline (which offers free advice 24/7), the Good Fit Counseling Center and more.

Photos by Daniel Friedman

Who is your parenting guru? (part 1)

Two weeks ago I posed that question to the 15,000 readers who subscribe to our e-newsletter. It was wonderful to watch my in-box as many thoughtful responses came back.

It all started when Marketing Director MaryAnn Ortiz-Lieb came to me with a unique opportunity. One of her clients has proposed partnering with us to bring a notable parenting expert to the Valley to speak. We wanted to find out who, in an ideal world, that person should be.

As I reviewed the responses, I realized that the list of suggestions is in itself a tremendous resource for parents. So as we take the next steps — contacting these people to determine their availability and fees — I wanted to share our readers’ “Top 10″ list of parenting gurus, in alphabetical order. Five are listed today; five more will come tomorrow.

NAOMI ALDORT

Naomi Aldort is a self-described “parenting guide,” an internationally published writer and public speaker. Her book, Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves: Transforming parent-child relationships from reaction and struggle to freedom, power and joy, promotes the idea that children need love and validation, not control and behavior modification. Her perspective is considered “attachment parenting friendly,” according to her website, though she does not use the word directly because of “its multiple and contradictory meanings.”

I watched the following video, where Aldort offers some insightful perspectives when a parent believes “my child doesn’t listen to me.”

JAMES DOBSON

James Dobson, Ph.D. founded Focus on the Family as a non-profit organization, established to strengthen Christian family values. What began with a radio program on a few stations in 1977 has grown to a network of more than 3,000. He gives advice on Christian marriages, families and parenting through the ministry of Family Talk radio.

ADELE FABER AND ELAINE MAZLISH

Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, authors of How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will TalkSiblings Without Rivalry and several other books. Their work, based on the philosophis of renowned child psychologist Haim Ginott, Ph.D., suggest ways of communicating that make a profound difference in relationships with children. (Both MaryAnn and I are huge fans of these books, which were widely referenced back when we were both taking parenting classes.)

JIM FAY AND FOSTER CLINE

Jim Fay and Foster W. Cline, M.D. developed the Parenting with Love and Logic approach from 75 years of combined experience working with and raising kids. Like their books, Love and Logic seminars provides simple, practical techniques to help parents have more fun and less stress while raising responsible kids of all ages.

One of our readers, who has children 8 and 10 years old, wrote to share the fact that she is reading the Parenting with Love and Logic book. “It has really changed the way we parent and everyone in the family is more respectful to one another,” she write. “Our children are taking more responsibility and learning from their behaviors. [Fay and Cline] also have a website with an email newsletter that I receive weekly, which reinforces the book and reminds us how to parent. I would definitely go to a seminar led by these authors and I would tell my friends about it.”

Here is a sample from one of Jim Fay’s presentations:

STEVEN HUGHES

Steven J. Hughes, PhD, LP, ABPdN, is an assistant professor of pediatrics and neurology at the University of Minnesota Medical School and maintains a private practice in St. Paul, where he specializes in the assessment of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and other learning and behavioral problems.

A parent himself, he chose Montessori education for his own family and is a frequent guest lecturer at the Montessori Training Center of Minnesota and a Montessori schools around Minnesota and Wisconsin. In his talks, Hughes describes how Maria Montessori’s brain-based approach to education “provides an unparalleled foundation for the development of academic, social, and executive functions critical for advanced problem solving and lifetime success,” according to his website goodatdoingthings.com. A book is coming out soon.

Tomorrow: Five more parenting experts our readers recommend.

The end of a Mothering era

No more Mothering.

During intermission at the Sunday matinee performance of “Spamalot” I learned that Mothering magazine — the print edition, anyway — is dead.

The news came from East Valley mom Brittney Walker, a frequent contributor to Raising Arizona Kids and a catalytic force in our company’s growing online and social media presence. Brittney sent me a link to Mothering’s announcement, “How We Became a Web Company.”

“In the last few weeks it has become obvious that we must cease publication of the print magazine,” wrote editor Peggy O’Mara. “With the March-April edition, after 35 years, we will cease publishing Mothering magazine. We are now a Web-only company.”

This news is sobering to those of us in the publishing world. I think many of us who publish special interest magazines hoped we were somehow invulnerable to the changing face of media. Certainly we weren’t subject to the same pressures faced by daily newspapers and weekly news magazines struggling to compete with real-time access to breaking news. Sure, we were hit hard by the recession. But economic conditions are cyclical, not irreversible. Reading a magazine is “an experience,” some in our industry proclaimed. Niche publications with loyal audiences would surely survive the media fallout.

But then the big guys with family audiences started folding: Child, Cookie, Nickelodeon, Teen, Wondertime. And now Mothering.

Mothering filled a special niche in the national parenting magazine arena. Targeted to “pioneers” in the natural-living movement, the publication was founded in 1976 by Addie Vorys Eavenson (now Cranson) and a group of volunteers. A story not unlike our our own, which came 14 years later.

Mothering grew to a circulation of 100,000 but saw subscriptions and advertising revenues drop for three consecutive years. O’Mara blames the economy’s hit on Mothering’s key advertisers — toy manufacturers, sling/infant carrier makers. She also says today’s parents seek information online and “don’t have time” to read.  I find it hard to believe that’s the full story.

Every company has a natural balance point between growth and stability. Did the magazine get too ambitious? Did it take on too large a staff? Did it lose the flexibility it had as a smaller operation? Did its message fail to resonate with “natural living” parents who saw too much emphasis on product advertising? I don’t have answers to any of these questions but I know that nothing is ever as simple as it seems.

This news certainly gives me pause. But I’m far from ready to pull the plug on print. Thankfully (and Marketing Director MaryAnn Ortiz-Lieb would be furiously knocking on wood right now), Raising Arizona Kids is in a very stable place. Our revenues declined in 2009 but by 2010 were already (though slowly) moving back up. We are paying our bills on time. Thanks to fierce budgeting oversight by Operations Director Debbie Davis, we entered 2011 feeling we’d weathered the worst of it.

We, too, are adapting to meet the changing information needs of today’s parents. In the 10 months since we committed to an eZine concept — publishing fresh content daily at raising arizonakids.com — our web traffic has grown by 66 percent. We were the first local parenting resource to jump into social media and continue to have the strongest presence.

I worry for publications like Mothering that give up on print, especially when print remains the strongest potential revenue stream for magazines. No one yet has figured out how to pull in equivalent money from web-based enterprises alone.

And there’s something else I have found interesting. Despite all the attention focused on the new media tools, despite growing online audiences, despite gloomy predictions that print will not survive, nearly everyone who contacts me with a story idea wants to see it in print. Clearly there is something real and lasting about words that appear in print that is not replicated in its digital form.

There is a scene in Act I of “Spamalot” (a musical spoof on “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”) where a tattered peasant is pulling a wagon through the streets, calling to the neighborhood that he is there to collect their dead. Another character enters the stage pulling what he claims to be a dead body by the arm. But the “body” is talking, indignantly protesting that “I’m not dead yet!” By the end of the scene, he is singing and dancing along with others on the wagon who had been given up for dead.

I’d like to believe that print, too, is “not dead yet.”