Today’s Friday Feature is Emma Nguyen!

April 16, 2021

What is your full name?

Emma Nguyen

What is your current status within your degree, what are you studying and who do you work with?

I am a doctoral student in Linguistics working with Dr. William Snyder.

Where were you before you started studying at UConn and what do you plan to do after graduating from UConn?

Before UConn, I received my BA in Linguistics at the University of Maryland. I am originally from Annapolis, Maryland. After graduation, I hope to continue in academia as a research scientist or professor at a university. 

What are your research interests and why?

I am mainly interested in investigating how young children successfully acquire their first language and the factors that may impact learning. My research specifically explores how children’s knowledge of the passive voice in English is influenced by the meaning of the verb that is used. For example, children’s early success with a sentence like “Tom was surprised by Lucy” may be due to their understanding of the verb “surprise”.

By establishing a baseline for what typical language development looks like for mono-lingual children, we may be able to have a deeper understanding of language development in populations that are different from this, including bilingual children as well as children from clinical populations. 

What are your favorite at home activities? 

During this pandemic, I’ve been reading a lot of books! This is a great opportunity for me to explore new worlds when I can’t go outside. I recently finished the Percy Jackson books by Rick Riordan which reignited my long love for Greek and Roman mythology. I also love to knit, crochet, and embroider. I really enjoy making homemade gifts that I can give to family and friends. I have made a bunch of baby blankets already!

To find out more about the study Emma works with, please follow this link: https://pal.uconn.edu/

Today’s Friday Feature is Gayoung Lee!

April 1, 2021

Today’s Friday Feature is Gayoung Lee!

Let’s find out more about Gayoung Lee!

Gayoung Lee is currently a junior at UCONN, majoring in Biology and minoring in Psychology. Her goal after UCONN is to become a cardiovascular surgeon. She is passionate about low-income families and minorities being able to have access to affordable and high quality health care. Another big passion of hers is helping kids and being a part of their learning experience. She was a Taekwondo instructor for kids from the age of 3-16. She was also a Sunday school teacher at her local church. She is an advocate for mental health, minority rights and equality, and health equity. She works hard to educate her young students about kindness and acceptance of all people. Gayoung joined UCONN KIDS as a way to learn more about child development and become more educated about their cognitive skills and children with disabilities. Her favorite quote is by Malala Yousafzai. She said “Do not wait for someone else to come and speak for you. It’s you who can change the world.” Gayoung strives to become a leader and help people grow and learn in a unified front. In her free time, Gayoung enjoys spending time with her family and learning how to cook traditional Korean dishes. She loves creating vision boards and mood boards to help strike inspiration and motivation.

Today’s Friday Feature is Sudha Srinivasan, PT, PhD!

March 5, 2021

Today’s Friday Feature is Sudha Srinivasan, PT, PhD!
Let’s find out more about Sudha Srinivasan, PT, PhD!
 
What lab are you from?
– Lab: REINVENT-PT Lab (REhabilitation INnoVations and Emerging Novel Technologies in Physical Therapy)
 
What is your role at UConn?
– I am an Assistant Professor in the Physical Therapy program within the Department of Kinesiology at UConn. I joined UConn in January 2019.
 
Can you tell us more about yourself?
– I am a pediatric physical therapist by training and earned my PhD in Kinesiology from UConn in 2014. My doctoral work focused on early identification of autism and the development of novel, embodied, movement-based interventions for school-age children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
I completed 2 post-doctoral fellowships – one at the University of Delaware looking at the healthcare needs of families of school-age children and youth with ASD and the 2nd through a UNICEF-funded project to develop open source Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) tool for non-verbal and minimally-verbal children with ASD. As part of this project, we developed a comprehensive, child-friendly icon-driven system available as picture cards, a desktop application, as well as Android and iOS apps to enable communication in children with communication impairments such as ASD, Cerebral Palsy, etc.
 
What studies are you currently working on?
– At UConn I am currently conducting on a few studies involving children and youth with developmental disabilities.
The “Play and Move” study is an intervention study that examines the effects of three types of play and movement interventions on motor, social communication, and cognitive skills of 6 to 14 year-old children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The study involves children receiving interventions twice a week for a period of 8 weeks provided in a small group context involving the child, an expert clinician, an adult model, and the caregiver. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have transitioned the study online to tele health-based delivery using web- conferencing platforms. At present, families have the flexibility of either participating virtually or in-person, based on their convenience in the intervention.
The “Youth physical activity and function” study is aimed at studying physical activity patterns in youth with different types of developmental disabilities between 13 and 26 years of age. The study also seeks to understand perspectives relative to physical activity in stakeholders including youth with developmental disabilities themselves as well as among their caregivers, teachers, and therapists. As part of this study, we are presently conducting 1.5 hour-long focus group discussions with different groups of stakeholders to learn their experiences relative to getting youth with disabilities physically active, challenges they face, and suggestions they have to design better programs for this population.
 
What are your goals?
– I am very passionate about working with children. My long-term for research is to develop interventions, aids, technologies, etc. to empower individuals with disabilities and to enable them to fully engage in society to their maximum potential. I would like my work to inform clinical PT practice and enhance participation of children and youth with developmental disabilities. Ultimately, I would like my work to enable individuals with disabilities to lead fulfilling, physically healthy and happy lives.
 
What do you like to do for fun?
– I love reading fiction books, solving puzzles – word jumbles, Sudoku, logic puzzles, etc.., and watching movies with my husband!

LEGO Has Changed The Future of Braille Literacy

March 3, 2021

LEGO companies have become very popular for children who are visually impaired. They are using LEGO toys as braille bricks by forming them into a letter, number, or punctuation mark of braille writing. A normal LEGO block has the same arrangement as a typical braille letter with 6 raised dots in a 3X2 pattern. 

 

The Danish Association of the Blind pitched this idea of implementing Braille Bricks to the LEGO foundation in 2011. Even though technological advancements have lowered Braille literacy, it is important that audio books and screen-readers do not replace braille. Sean Randall, an IT instructor at New College Worcester, a school for the blind, explains that those who have no sight use their sense of hearing, but lack the ability to spell and lose their grammar and punctuation skills. 

 

Guided play involves teaching students in a way that is actively engaging and interactive. Children need to see the importance and purpose of what they are doing in order to better learn and grasp the skills. LEGO’s Braille Bricks uses guided play to help with phonetics, spellings, and mathematics. It can even promote motor coordination and tactile skills. 

 

The benefit of using braille bricks versus a braille machine is that it doesn’t highlight your mistakes. It lets children learn from their mistakes and try again. It is highly convenient to be able to move letters around and be more hands on. A simple block of lego has become a form of play while maintaining the importance of braille literacy. This will help so many children in the blind community have better opportunities in the future. 

 

 Gayoung (Jessica) Lee

Research Assistant, UCONN K.I.D.S.

 

Article Link: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-sensory-revolution/202101/lego-braille-bricks-help-blind-children-learn-read

Do Face Masks Hinder A Child’s Emotional Intelligence?

February 27, 2021

The flag that represents our world right now is the face mask. It has become embedded into our everyday lives and a required fashion accessory. It has become habitual to put on a face mask in order to protect ourselves and those around us from spreading the virus. Although the vaccine has started to be administered, face masks will still become a staple piece in our wardrobe for a while. This raises a question for parents wondering if face masks will become a barrier for children’s emotional learning. A lot of information that children gain are from facial expressions. Babies are able to look at their parents and see their reaction when interacting with an object or a person. If a child sees an adult be fearful of an animal, the child may pick up on the facial cues and gain information from it.  

 

Although facial expression is a crucial part of improving emotional intelligence, there are other ways that children pay attention to gain information, such as body language and tone of voice. A recent study showed that 7-13 year old children were able to accurately determine the emotion of the adults who depicted a variety of emotional expressions while having their face be covered. Another study focused on seeing if adults and children were able to identify emotional expressions soly from their eyes, a task in which they called “reading the mind in the eyes”. Children from the age of 6-7 were highly capable of determining most emotions, like anger and sadness. 

 

Children are very adaptable and flexible in their learning abilities. Researchers studied deaf children from Nicaragua who ended up developing their own sign language in order to communicate with each other. Children are able to find other ways to communicate and learn due to their young age and developing brain. 

 

With all the worries that this pandemic has brought, we can take a deep breath and not stress about the toll it will take on a child’s emotional learning. Their flexibility in what and how they learn will allow them to gain a strong emotional understanding and pick up on social cues. 

Gayoung (Jessica) Lee

Research Assistant, UCONN K.I.D.S.

Link to Article: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-baby-scientist/202101/face-masks-and-children-s-emotion-understanding

Friday Feature ~ Dr. Ronald P. Rohner

February 26, 2021

Today’s Friday Feature is Dr. Ronald P. Rohner!
Let’s find out more about Dr. Rohner!

Name: Dr. Ronald P. Rohner

Alma mater: Stanford University

Hometown: Storrs, Connecticut

Current position at UConn: Professor Emeritus and Director,  Rohner Center for the Study of Interpersonal Acceptance and Rejection, HDFS

Research: I’ve devoted the past 6 decades to understanding the long-term developmental effects of interpersonal relationships, especially parent-child relationships.

1) conduct and promote basic and applied research worldwide on issues surrounding interpersonal acceptance-rejection, with special emphasis on the form of parent-child relationship called parental acceptance-rejection

2) formulate and implement practical intervention, prevention, educational, and other such applications pertinent to these issues, and

3) foster and encourage knowledge-sharing by establishing the Rohner Center as the world’s pre-eminent information resource center regarding interpersonal acceptance and rejection

Research Summary: TED talk    Research history: IPARTheory conception to maturity

Current projects:

  • Child and adult mental health
  • Conduct problems, behavior disorders, and delinquency
  • School violence and teacher acceptance and rejection
  • Child welfare, including custody, parent education, foster care, and adoption
  • Healthy child development
  • Parental Alienation

Global reach: Our work on the issues of interpersonal acceptance and rejection has a global reach. For example, the readership distribution report from ScholarWorks shows more than 16,333 downloads of a single article from 1,157 institutions in 147 countries.

Leisure time: I work mostly 7 days a week just to keep-up with research and the needs of researchers and practitioners around the globe. But I always tell my colleagues and students “Work Well, Love well, and Play Well–and keep them in BALANCE”. So, to balance my day, I try to swim and walk when I can. And I love playing my harmonica.

Favorite movie: Charlotte’s web. Reason: It links well with my research and with the mission of the Rohner Center.  The movie centers around the life-changing friendship between a pig named “Wilbur” and a spider named “Charlotte”. It makes us realize how important it is to feel cared about (accepted) by the people most important in our lives.

Getting Rid of the February Blues With Your Kids

February 15, 2021

As winter approaches each year we often look forward to special moments such as snow days, cozy fires, sledding, the holidays, and more. However as the holiday season ends and the cold weather stays we face “The February blues”. This time of the year is associated with feelings of sadness, depression, or loneliness and even more so after a tumultuous year that was 2020.

Now, as we hit the “The February blues”, it is important to note that it is something that can affect all of us, even children. We often see people demonstrate symptoms that can be associated with “Seasonal Affective Disorder”, and even more so now after a global pandemic that has made it even more challenging to fight off the depressive symptoms. The CDC reported that symptoms of depression had a threefold increase in 2020 compared to the previous year due to the pandemic. Surveys also showed that children and adolescents were also experiencing higher levels of depression and anxiety. 

 

Knowing all this, What are ways for children and adults to not be as affected by the February blues?

 

  1. Prioritize Socialization
    1. Even though we are unable to see our friends and family, it is important to stay social. The effects of social isolation on children and adults can lead to an increased risk for depression. There is a lot of research on the toll that stressful life events can cause, but luckily social ties have been known as a way to prevent symptoms from rising. Maintaining social relationships improves overall happiness and can lower the intensity of depressive symptoms. Even if it seems impossible to socialize in the midst of covid, there are many ways to keep in touch with your friends and family. You can have a virtual play date, movie night, or happy hour for the adults. It’s important to continuously put in the effort to surround yourself with positive people and positive energy. 
  2. Increase play time
    1. Play time is an important part of childhood development. It increases their physical, cognitive, social, and emotional intelligence. Currently, children have limited interaction with their peers and are unable to play and learn. Despite not being able to spend time with their peers, the most important play time interaction is between the parents and the child. It promotes a stronger bond and a healthy attachment. Ever since COVID hit the world, puzzle sales have skyrocketed for those dreadful days during quarantine. Legos, blocks, and puzzles are amazing toys for kids to play with as it improves their spatial skills. Play time doesn’t necessarily mean playing with toys, music can be a fun contribution to play time. Music has beneficial qualities such as reading skills, vocabulary, language ability, and math skills. Study has found that musical training can increase a child’s IQ. Playing music in the house can uplift the parents’ and the child’s spirit. 
  3. Exercise
    1. Research has shown that exercise can decrease symptoms of depression, even if it’s just a 20 minute walk a day. Being stuck at home can be dreadful during the winter months, so it’s a nice change of scenery to go outside and get some fresh air. It may seem difficult to incorporate your kids into your exercise routine, but many Children platforms have come out with workout routines designated to provide your child with a fun exercise routine. Exercising together can be another way to bond with your child while improving your physical and mental health at the same time. 
  4. Communication
    1. It is difficult to start up a conversation about your feelings, especially if it is negative. Parents encourage their children to express their good feelings, but it is hard to address the negative emotions. It may be uncomfortable, but encouraging children to talk about negative emotions is important for helping them address it and learn how to express it. If your child bottles up their negative emotions, it can make them less expressive and prone to developing emotional problems. 
  5. Mental Breaks
    1. There is nothing wrong with admitting that you need a break. As parents, it is best to take care of yourself mentally before caring for your children. Parents’ mental health can be passed onto their children and cause them to develop anxiety and depressive symptoms. This pandemic has caused a lot of fear and anxiety in adults and children, and sometimes we all just need a break from reality. 

 

Article Link: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-baby-scientist/202102/fend-the-february-blues-your-kids

 

Tips for Parents on Managing Holiday Stress

December 17, 2020

The holiday season is typically a time of happiness and joy as people enjoy a time with their family and friends. Unfortunately, this time also encompasses a certain amount of stress and anxiety that is further reinforced by advertisements, media, and society (and the current COVID-19 pandemic). Among some strategies to handle stress and anxiety people turn to unhealthy stress management behaviors such as overindulging in eating or drinking. These actions don’t typically help and often make us feel worse. With that in mind, the APA suggests better, healthier, and longer-lasting techniques we can use to make holiday stress more manageable.

The following tips are among some of the points to consider:

  • Strengthen social collections: The holidays can be a time to reconnect with the positive people in our lives.
  • Initiate conversations about the season: Conversations with our kids about the variety of holiday traditions in the family are typically a good exercise. This time can be used as an opportunity to discuss how some families may not participate in certain holiday traditions as well.
  • Set expectations: It is helpful to set realistic expectations for gifts and holiday activities. Depending on the child’s age, this opportunity can be used to teach kids about the value of money and responsible spending.
  • Keep things in perspective: It is helpful to maintain a broad context and a longer-term perspective. There will be time after the holiday season to follow up or do more of things we’ve overlooked or didn’t have time to do during the holidays.
  • Take care of yourself: We must pay attention to our own needs and feelings during the holiday season.

If a person continues to feel stress, it would be recommended to consult a psychologist or other licensed mental health professional in addition to the suggestions presented above.

Considering the current coronavirus pandemic and the way the year has passed we can say that this holiday season is nothing like ordinary. I stand by the CDC’s recommendations of frequent hand washing, practicing social distancing from family and friends, as well as wearing a proper mask. Recognizing the importance of mental health, we at UConn KIDS encourage you to abide by the recommended guidelines to handle the pandemic and consult a mental health professional if needed (links to the APA and CDC are included below as they contain further guidelines that can be helpful).

Happy Holidays!

 

Francisco A. Carrillo

Research Assistant, UConn K.I.D.S.

 

Link to article: https://www.apa.org/topics/parents-holiday

Link to APA: www.apa.org

Link to CDC: www.cdc.gov

Problem-Solving Program Teaches Kids How To Use Their Heads Instead of Their Fists

December 8, 2020

Developmental Psychologists have been interested in why some children tend to be more violent than others and what factors can contribute to this increase in violent behaviors. Significant findings make psychologists suspect that children may sometimes behave violently because they lack interpersonal cognitive problem-solving (ICPS) skills, like for example reasoning or brainstorming solutions to a problem, analyzing the potential negative outcomes of their actions, and how to link causal relationships with interpersonal interactions. The researchers suggest that without these skills children are more likely to have infuriating social encounters. Frustration is in turn expressed as negative outcomes reflecting itself in misbehaviors, which in turn bolsters the cycle of unpleasant social interactions, hurt feelings, frustration, and bad behavior.

Researchers have presented significant findings that suggest that teaching ICPS skills improved children’s impulsive behavior and social interactions in comparison to children in the control group. Interestingly, well-adjusted children who learned ICPS skills in their early years (nursery school) were less likely to develop negative behavioral outcomes in the future when compared to children who didn’t learn these skills. Additional research shows how positive parental influence can have strong positive effects on cognitive and behavioral maturation.

The development of effective interpersonal cognitive problem-skills (ICPS) intervention has led to the emergence of several programs around the U.S. that seek to decrease frustration and misbehaviors therefore increasing positive behavioral outcomes and interactions. The ICPS’s widespread appeal has taught thousands of children and adolescents how to think and interact with others and has contributed significantly to the reduction of violence, high-risk behaviors, and substance abuse in the locations where it has been implemented.

Link to article: https://www.apa.org/research/action/solve

Friday Feature ~ Nikole Giovannone

December 4, 2020

Today’s Friday Feature is Nikole Giovannone!
 
Hi Nikole! Can you tell us more about yourself?
 
“My name is Nikole Giovannone, and I’m a 3rd year Ph.D. student studying Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences. Before I came to UConn, I studied Psychology and Linguistics at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts. I grew up in Connecticut, so I was really happy to come back here to do my Ph.D.! At UConn, I’m a member of the Spoken Language Processing lab with my advisor, Dr. Rachel Theodore. Together, we study how children and adults with language impairment process speech sounds, and how their speech sound processing relates to other elements of language processing, like grammar, reading, and voice recognition. One of the goals of our research is to learn more about what causes some kids to have trouble with speech and language so that we can help speech-language pathologists figure out how to best treat them. When I’m done with my Ph.D., I hope to continue studying speech and language processing, and perhaps become a professor! When I’m not taking classes or working on my research, I love to do just about anything creative. Some of my favorite hobbies are baking bread, going birdwatching, painting with watercolors, and knitting. Here’s a picture of me in a sweater that I knitted!”
 
More about the study that Nikole is working on: IRB protocol H17-051, PI Dr. Rachel M. Theodore: “Determinants of Phonetic Category Structure” https://slaplab.uconn.edu/