A major proportion of children’s media star human-like animal characters, but is this the most effective methodology for relaying moral lessons to children? A recent study by researchers at the University of Toronto focused on reading books with human characters, and books with anthropomorphic characters to examine different effects on learning. Both categories of books taught children ages four to six about sharing with others. The researchers evaluated altruistic behaviors before and after the book was read. The study showed that children were more likely to share after reading the book featuring humans when compared to the book with animal characters. Children seem to more easily pick up on concepts that realistically mirror their own life. This study shows the significance of learning techniques in the early cognitive development of children, especially with lessons of morality.
Read more about the study
Read the full study here
In the first months of life, infants are able to grasp relations between objects and co-occurring words. During this rich period of learning, does sleep help to strengthen object-word relationships? A recent study from researchers in Germany investigated this relationship in infants aged 6 to 8 months. They exposed infants to new object-word pairings and then measured their brain activity after the infants had taken a nap. The study found that sleep was indeed associated with semantic encoding of words in long-term memory. This was especially true during longer periods of stage 2 sleep, indicating length of a nap can play a significant role in infant learning. Researchers additionally found brain patterns known to occur in children and adults that improve memory during sleep, also occur in infants. An infant’s sleep provides the brain an opportunity to categorize and filter what they have been exposed to, enabling further development.
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Read the full study here
By pinpointing predictive characteristics observed in early elementary education, educators could positively influence children’s development into adolescence and adulthood. A large-scale 2015 study from researchers at Pennsylvania State University examined connections between social competence in kindergarten, and wellness in young adulthood. They measured qualities in children known as noncognitive skills, which include: interpersonal interaction, emotional regulation, motivation, and attention. Researchers have found that these characteristics serve as predictors for success in adulthood such as well-being, education, employment, crime, substance use, and mental health. These findings can beneficially impact school programs in providing early intervention for noncognitive skills in childhood, and to ultimately have lasting effects in adulthood. The study emphasizes the significance of social-emotional functioning, a subject that UConn KIDS researchers are also investigating.
Read the full study here
It seems that it is becoming a common occurrence for parents to have to discuss violent events of the world with their children. Even though, as a parent, you may try to shield children from learning about these events, most children have some understanding of what has happened – children overhear as the details of en event are broadcast on our nightly news programs, pick up clues from adults in conversation, or by simply seeing images in magazines/newspapers. In light of the most recent violent event in Manchester, England, we have decided to draw your attention to some resources to help in talking with your children about these events, as well as helping them to cope with grief, should an event impact you personally:
“Talking with kids about the scary news”
“How children grieve and how parents and other adults can support them”
American Academy of Pediatrics resource page on helping children cope
Do you think you or your child may benefit from therapy or other services in light of a recent event? CT 211
The researchers from UConn KIDS are always working hard and making awesome discoveries! The lead author on a new study, Matthew Hall, share a bit about what his newly published article is all about:
“For a long time, researchers and parents alike have observed that as a whole, deaf children seem to lag behind hearing children of the same age when in comes to “executive function”: a set of cognitive skills that help us flexibly deploy our cognitive resources to regulate our behavior and achieve desired goals. These skills are important predictors of school readiness & academic outcomes, so it’s important to figure out what’s causing these problems so that we can address them more effectively. If the underlying cause turns out to be deafness itself, as has been proposed by previous studies, then providing early access to sound via hearing technology would be important. But if the underlying cause turns out to be a lack of exposure to language, then provided early access to *language* would be important, and it could be that sign language exposure is a more effective tool than spoken language. This study addresses the issue of whether the deficits are better explained by access to sound or access to language. We do so by looking at executive function in children who are deaf (no access to sound) but who are born into Deaf families where ASL is used from birth (full access to language). This is where the two theories make contrasting predictions. The results argue against the theory that sound is the critical factor, but are consistent with the theory that language is the crucial factor. I do need to point out, though, that we can’t say that we’ve *proven* language to be the key. It also remains to be seen whether deaf children from hearing families will show demonstrable benefit from early exposure to ASL: that’s what we’re hoping to address next.”
You can find the article in the Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education. It was published in print in January of 2017.
We would also like to draw attention to an upcoming event: next week at the Connecticut State Capital is Autism Awareness Day. As UConn KIDS continues to do research on autism, will be attending. We hope to see you there!
All of April is Autism Awareness month, so visit https://www.autism-society.org/ for more ideas on how to get involved in raising awareness for autism.
A new report from Connecticut Voices for Children looks at the relationship between youth outcomes and community opportunity:
“The report finds significant disparities in communities across Connecticut based on demographic factors, including population density, residential segregation, and average income. Youth growing up in dense, low-income areas and areas with segregated populations of racial minorities are more likely to struggle, while youth growing up in wealthier rural and suburban areas with predominantly white residents have more positive outcomes. These community characteristics correlate with factors that may negatively impact youth throughout their lives: teen birth rates, youth disconnection, and juvenile arrests.” However, “…by examining outliers among otherwise similar communities, this report identifies successful policies and practices to improve these youth outcomes.”
A recent study set for publication in the April edition of Pediatrics analyzed data from 524,534 children born in Western Australia between 1990-2010 and found that children with intellectual disability, mental and behavioral health problems, and conduct disorder were more likely to be maltreated or neglected than their typically developing counterparts. While these findings come from Australia, they are consistent with similar studies completed internationally. This article highlights concerns about the rights and needs of children with developmental disabilities, and the need to advocate for their well being.
UConn KIDS seeks to do just that through our ongoing research into atypically developing children. To further our goal, we will also be attending the LEARN Disability Summit at Mohegan Sun on March 11, and will be sharing a table with UConn’s Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities.
If you’re interested in getting more involved in advocating for the rights and needs of children with developmental disabilities, be sure to attend the upcoming CT Council for Disabilities public forum on March 14 and Autism Awareness Day at the State Capitol on April 12!
Visit HealthyChildren.Org to read about the research.