Don’t Overlook Visual Development in Infants

Parents often look forward to important milestones in their child’s development such as their first steps or first word. They work to encourage their baby to crawl, sit up, or roll over. What parents may not realize is that many of the foundational skills needed to reach these milestones are visual in nature. Visual skills are an essential part of an infant’s early development.

Why do visual skills matter?

Visual skills are important for learning in all areas, as babies frequently learn from imitation. Age-appropriate visual abilities are necessary for a child to see parents or siblings doing something and want to try it out for themselves. Visual skills also provide the motivation for motor milestones like walking or crawling. Babies are usually motivated to move by looking at a favorite toy or seeing a parent waiting with outstretched arms. Without being enticed by what they see, infants are less likely to explore their environment and develop important motor and coordination skills as they do.

Visual skills are closely related to motor skills in other ways, as they allow babies to see and discover their own bodies. Babies then use this connection between their eyes and their bodies to do important things like picking up and holding objects, planning movements, and developing body awareness. New movements allow a child to be in different positions, which in turn causes a change in perspective that further develops visual skills and provides new sensory experiences. Visual and motor skills continually build on each other and connect in important ways throughout early development.

Vision also plays an essential role in the development of cognitive and social skills. Concepts like object permanence (understanding that objects are still there even when they can’t be seen) come from being able to look at and play with objects. Social skills begin to develop when a child can see that there is someone who they want to interact with in his or her environment.

How can I support my child’s visual development?

Infants need opportunities to explore the world around them and practice the visual skills they are trying to develop. The chart below outlines the visual milestones that you should see at each age and activities that you can do to encourage visual development.

Questions or concerns?

If you have questions or concerns about your child’s visual or visual motor development, please contact us at info@playworkschicago.com or 773-332-9439.

Aubrey Day, Occupational Therapy Student Intern

 

References:

American Academy of Pediatrics. (2009). Babies should sleep on their backs, play on stomachs.

American Optometric Association. (2020a). Infant vision: Birth to 24 months of age.

American Optometric Association. (2020b) Ways to help infant vision development.

Folio, M.R. and Fewell, R.R. (2002). Peabody Motor Development Chart.

The Urban Child Institute. (2012). Seeing the importance of visual development.

 

Photo credit: allaboutvision.com

Language Milestones for Children with Down Syndrome (Birth to Five)

Birth to five years of age is a critical period for language development for all children. Each child progresses at his or her own rate, and each presents with his or her own strengths or weaknesses. The same applies to children with Down syndrome. However, children with Down syndrome tend to develop language skills at a slower rate than their typically developing peers. This blog will aim to answer questions regarding language development in children with Down syndrome by comparing language milestones to those of their typically developing peers.

While the milestones above are based on general trends, it is important to note that language development will vary for both typically developing children and children with Down syndrome. Speech therapy is recommended for children with Down syndrome, starting younger than one year of age to target feeding and oral-motor skills and after 15- to 18-months of age to target speech and language skills. Common early speech and language targets for children with Down syndrome include verbal turn taking, vocabulary acquisition, use of simple signs and gestures, following simple routines-based directions, use of age-appropriate speech sounds, and more.

Questions or concerns?

If you have questions about language development in children with Down syndrome, please contact us at info@playworkschicago.com or 773-332-9439.

Jill Teitelbaum, MS, CF-SLP
Speech-Language Pathologist

Reference: Layton, T. (2004). Developmental Scale for Children with Down Syndrome.

Photo Credit: yulia84 via pixabay.com

Baby Boot Camp: The Importance of Tummy Time

Tummy time promotes development, strength, and a new visual perspective for your baby. Growing babies require many hours of sleep, which means your baby spends a large amount of time on his or her back to maintain a safe position while sleeping. Tummy time is pivotal during waking hours to strengthen the head, neck, and shoulder muscles and promote head control. Tummy time also gives your baby a fresh new perspective on the world as they can interact with toys and reach for objects in the environment. Tummy time is fundamental to your baby’s development and builds skills that promote later milestones of rolling over, crawling, and playing.

Getting started with Tummy Time

Tummy time can be started at any age, it is even recommended for newborns! Tummy time should always be a supervised activity. Gradually introduce your baby to tummy time by placing them on your stomach or chest in a reclined position such as laying on the couch. This allows your baby to continue bonding and interacting with you and may help them tolerate this new position. Start with short intervals on a safe and firm surface, such as the floor, for two to three minutes per day. You can progress up to 20 to 30 minutes of tummy time per day depending on your baby’s tolerance. Aim for tummy time at a time of day when he or she is alert, such as after nap time. Remember to always pay attention to your baby’s needs and look for signs of tiredness, such as crying or laying their head down on the floor.

How can I promote a successful tummy time experience?

  • Provide extra support with a bolster
    • Try rolling up a thin towel or blanket to make a bolster
    • Place the bolster under your baby’s chest with his or her arms positioned over the roll and hands in front
    • Always keep your baby’s chin in front of the roll to ensure their airway remains open
  • Promote weight bearing
    • Make sure your baby distributes his or her weight to both sides of the body in order to equally strengthen
  • Promote reaching for play
    • Get down on the floor with your baby to promote engagement and motivation
    • Hold a toy in front of your baby to encourage head control and reaching
    • Place toys in a circle around your baby to promote reaching in all directions
  • Try out other positions
    • Side-lying: Lay your baby on his or her side and support their back with your hand or a rolled towel. Place your baby’s arms out in front to promote reaching and play in this position.
    • Airplane: Lay down and hold your baby in your arms while he or she is on their belly. This a fun and motivating new perspective for babies with head control.
  • Make tummy time a routine
    • Incorporate tummy time during everyday tasks such as diaper changes, songs, toweling off, or reading a book.
    • Try burping your baby with him or her laying across your lap on their tummy
  • Make it a multi-sensory experience
    • Use a visually stimulating blanket or towel
    • Try placing your baby on a variety of textured blankets or mats
    • Use a mirror to motivate your baby to lift his or her head to see their reflection and encourage self-recognition
    • Alternate between various safe surfaces in your home such as carpet, tile, or wood

What are red flags to look out for? 

  • Pay attention if your baby shows a head preference. For optimal development, your baby should look to both sides equally. Does he or she have a strong preference towards one side?
  • Does your baby have difficulty weight bearing on one side of the body? For development, it is important that your baby strengthen both sides of the body and weight bear equally through both hands and arms.
  • Does your baby have a flat patch on the side or back of the head? Is your baby’s head asymmetrical? Flat patches may develop due to a strong head preference or increased time spent on their back.

If your child is demonstrating some of the observations above, consider contacting one of our occupational therapists or the Illinois Early Intervention system for more information.

Questions or concerns?

If you have questions or concerns about your child, please contact us at info@playworkschicago.com or 773-332-9439.

Robyn Geist, MS, OTR/L
Occupational Therapist

Reference: Pumerantz, Christa & Zachry, Anne (2018). Tips for living life to its fullest: Establishing tummy time routines to enhance your baby’s development. American Occupational Therapy Association.

Photo Credit: Moswyn via iStock.com

Feeding Milestones: 12 to 18 Months

This blog post is part two of three discussing feeding milestones that a child encounters from birth to age two. Today’s post will focus specifically on the milestones met between 12 and 18 months.

The following chart outlines general guidelines for feeding and developmental milestones that your child should reach between the ages of one year and 18 months. Skills developed between 12-18 months are variable across this age span, and not as specific as the milestones met between birth-12 months. Please contact your speech-language pathologist if you have any concerns regarding your child’s feeding abilities.

Amount of food per day

Children should be eating 46 calories per pound based on their weight. One serving of food is equivalent to one tablespoon per year of life. A serving size for a 12-month-old child would be 1 tablespoon and a serving size for an 18-month-old child would be 1.5 tablespoons.  The following chart summarizes serving sizes of each major food group that a child should eat each day.

Stay tuned for the blog post on feeding milestones for 18- to- 24-months. If you have questions or concerns about your child’s feeding development, feel free to contact us at info@playworkschicago.com or 773-332-9439.

Katie Dabkowski, MS, CCC-SLP
Speech-Language Pathologist
Resources:

Speech and Language Milestones: Ages 3 to 5

We’re concluding our discussion of typical language development and red flags for communication difficulties for children ages birth to 5! Below you will find a list of age-appropriate speech and language skills for children 3 to 5 years old (36 to 60-months). If you have questions or concerns about your child’s speech and language development, feel free to contact us at info@playworkschicago.com or 773-332-9439 to set up an evaluation.

 

Kelly Fridholm, MCD, CCC-SLP

Speech-Language Pathologist

Speech and Language Milestones: 30-36 Month Development

We’re continuing our discussion of typical language development and red flags for communication difficulties for children ages birth to 5! Below you will find a list of age-appropriate speech and language skills for children ages 30- to 36-months. If you have questions or concerns about your child’s speech and language development, feel free to contact us at info@playworkschicago.com or 773-332-9439 to set up an evaluation.

Stay tuned: “Speech and Language Milestones: Ages 3 to 5” is up next!

Autumn Smith, MS, CCC-SLP
Director of Speech-Language Services

36-48 Month Milestones in Speech and Language Development

Is your child aging out of the Early Intervention program? Questions about what to look for next in terms of speech and language development? Our speech-language pathologist Jessie Delos Reyes provides a helpful checklist for upcoming milestones and developmental red flags:

36-48 months of age

Receptive Language (what your child understands):

  • Understands 1,200-2000+ words
  • Hears and responds when you call them from another room
  • Follows simple commands if item is out of sight
  • Follows two- and three step directions
  • Understands words for some primary colors (i.e. can point to named colors)
  • Understands some simple shapes (circle, square)
  • Understands concepts (big/small, soft/hard, rough/smooth) when contrast is presented
  • Follows simple two- and three-step directions
  • Listens and understands longer stories

Expressive Language (how your child uses language to express himself and communicate needs and wants):

  • Uses 1,000-1,600+ words
  • Speech intelligibility is 90% or greater
  • Talks about activities at school or with friends
  • Talks about daily happenings using about four sentences at a time
  • Requests permission
  • Shares and ask for turns
  • Answers simple “who?”, “what?”, and “where?” questions
  • Asks “when” and “how” questions
  • Uses pronouns: I, you, me, we, they, us, hers, his, them
  • Uses plurals
  • Uses four or more words in a sentence
  • Labels parts of an object (wheels, steering wheel)
  • Begins to express feelings (sad, happy, frustrated)

Speech and language red flags:

  • Difficulty being understood by familiar and unfamiliar listeners
  • Consistently dropping beginnings or endings of words (“ike” for “bike,” “ca” for “cat”)
  • Difficulty producing three to four word phrases
  • Difficulty following two- and three-step directions and simple sequences
  • Inconsistently answering simple WH questions (who, what, when, where)
  • Difficulty stating wants and needs
  • Difficulty playing with others or a lack of interest in other children

If you have concerns regarding your child’s speech and language development, call our office to schedule an evaluation with a speech language pathologist.

Jessie Delos Reyes, MA, CF-SLP