Postings for March 2013

Now that’s early learning

Babies only hours old are able to differentiate between sounds from their native language and a foreign language, according to a recent study that finds babies begin absorbing language while still in the womb.

The study shows that unborn babies are listening to their mothers talk during the last 10 weeks of pregnancy and at birth can demonstrate what they’ve heard.

“The mother has first dibs on influencing the child’s brain,” says Patricia Kuhl, study co-author and co-director of the Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences at the University of Washington. “The vowel sounds in her speech are the loudest units, and the fetus locks onto them.”

This is the first study that shows fetuses learn about the particular speech sounds of a mother’s language, says Christine Moon, the study’s lead author and a professor of psychology at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma. “This study moves the measurable result of experience with speech sounds from 6 months of age to before birth.”

Source: University of Washington

Keeping kids safe in the water

As summer inches closer and lakes, pools and rivers fill with kids cooling off on sunlit days, take time to reassess your child’s level of water safety.

Make a Splash, a program sponsored by the USA Swimming Foundation, promotes the importance of learning to swim.

According to the foundation:

•    Drowning is the second-leading cause of childhood accidental death.
•    Ten people drown each day in the U.S.
•    Forty percent of Caucasian children have low or no swimming ability.
•    In ethnically diverse communities, the youth drowning rate is more than double the national average.
•    Nearly six out of 10 African-American and Hispanic/Latino children are unable to swim, nearly twice as many as their Caucasian counterparts.
•    Participation in formal swim lessons can reduce the likelihood of childhood drowning by 88 percent.

Don’t wash the car, ladies

Here’s a new way to spice up your sex life: Share work around the house in gender-specific ways.

According to a new University of Washington (UW) study, married couples who divide household chores in traditional ways report having more sex than couples who share so-called men’s and women’s work.

The study, published in the February issue of the American Sociological Review, reports that sex isn’t a bargaining chip, but rather it's linked to what types of chores each spouse completes.

Couples who follow traditional gender roles around the house — for example, wives doing the cooking, cleaning and shopping; and men doing yard work and auto maintenance — report having sex more often.

“The results show that gender still organizes quite a bit of everyday life in marriage,” says study co-author Julie Brines, a UW associate professor of sociology.

Building Hope

Seattle Children’s Hospital will celebrate the opening of the first phase of its project, Building Hope: Cancer, Critical and Emergency Care Expansion at Seattle Children’s, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. March 13 and from 6 to 9:30 p.m. March 14 at the hospital, 4800 Sand Point Way N.E. in Seattle.

The events will include a short program with information about the new state-of the art-facility, tours and a presentation from experts in the fields of emergency, cancer and critical care. Call 206-987-4861 or email for information.

WaKIDS boosts early learning

The Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS) is a new program that helps children in Washington state get a boost in early learning. The 2011 Legislature passed Senate Bill 5427, which makes WaKIDS optional for state-funded, full-day kindergarten classrooms in the 2011–2012 school year and mandatory starting in the 2012–2013 school year.
WaKIDS has three components:

•    Family Connection welcomes families into the Washington K–12 system as partners in their children’s education.
•    “Whole-Child” Assessment gives kindergarten teachers information about the social and emotional, physical, cognitive and linguistic development of the kids in their classrooms.
•    Early Learning Collaboration aligns practices of early learning professionals and kindergarten teachers to support smooth transitions for children.

WaKIDS is a partnership between the Department of Early Learning and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, with private funding support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Thrive by Five Washington.
For more information, go to WaKIDS.


—Linda Morgan


Working to curb absenteeism

According to Attendance Works, a national and state initiative that promotes school attendance, every year, one in 10 kindergarten and first-grade students misses a month of school with excused and unexcused absences.

By middle and high school, the rates of chronic absence are far higher. Starting in kindergarten, these absences can affect academic achievement, especially for low-income students unable to make up for lost time.

Eastside Pathways, which works to help children in the Bellevue area succeed, wants to help reduce absenteeism in the schools. Joining other educators across the country, Justin (Tim) Mills, Ed.D., Bellevue School District superintendent, has endorsed the effort led nationally by Attendance Works to promote awareness of the effect chronic absenteeism has on academic achievement.

Learning how schools work

The Office of the Education Ombudsman (OEO) is an agency within the Washington state governor’s office that resolves disputes and conflict between parents and schools. The OEO offers classes and workshops for parents, legal guardians, foster parents, family members and other adults caring for students in state public schools.

Workshops are three hours long and cost $600. Topics include:

•    Understanding and Navigating the Public School System Learn how the public education system works and become a better advocate for your child. This class explains how school districts are structured and how state and federal laws and school district policy affect public education.
•    Communicating with Your Child’s School This workshop teaches you the best way to inform the school about your child’s needs, how to get around disagreements with school officials, how to bring up issues so that you are heard and how to prepare yourself for productive meetings at school.
•    Becoming a Partner in Your Child’s Education Participants learn about the different types of family involvement and find out how family involvement and a focus on academic achievement help kids stay out of trouble, get better grades and graduate.
•    Making Special Education Work for You This workshop focuses on strategies for ensuring that your child is fully participating in the school environment and getting the specially designed instruction he or she needs. It also gives you a better understanding of the process for developing an individualized education program (IEP).
For more information, contact Cathy Liu Scott at or 206-729-3211.


Behavioral Research & Therapy Clinics

The Behavioral Research & Therapy Clinics (BRTC) is a research and training facility at the University of Washington that specializes in developing and evaluating new treatments for difficult-to-treat personality disorders such as recurrent suicidal behaviors, borderline personality disorder, and associated emotional, behavioral and cognitive disorders. The BRTC also trains therapists in behavioral treatments for complex disorders. The primary treatment under development at the BRTC is called dialectical behavior therapy, which is a cognitive behavioral treatment developed by Marsha M. Linehan, Ph.D.

We’re pleased to feature the Behavioral Research & Therapy Clinics as our March Giving Together partner. And you can help as well: For every ParentMap Honey purchase made, 5 percent of the profits will be donated directly to support the Behavioral Research & Therapy Clinics’ mission of developing treatments for chronic personality disorders. Visit Honey each week to find an outstanding deal that is specifically tailored to families.


New vaccine guidelines

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics recently released new vaccine guidelines.

The CDC now recommends that women receive a dose of the whooping cough (pertussis) vaccine with each pregnancy. The booster protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap). Giving pregnant women the Tdap vaccine is meant to help protect their babies from whooping cough until the infants are old enough to begin receiving their own immunizations.

Sing for your stuttering

Got a stutterer at home? Intriguing news out of the University of Vermont offers reasons why people seem to stutter less when they sing.

“Understanding what dramatically reduces stuttering during singing may eventually help us understand stuttering better,” says Barry Guitar, Ph.D., of the University of Vermont and author of The Child Who Stutters: To the Pediatrician.

Here’s what he says about singing and stuttering:

•    There is now evidence that the brain functions differently for singing than it does for talking.
•    In singing, we use our vocal chords, lips and tongue differently than when we talk.
•    There is no time pressure in singing nor is there any communicative pressure.
•    When we sing, we generally know the words of the song by heart. “Word retrieval,” or searching for the words, may play a role in stuttering.

Source: The Stuttering Foundation

Keep those talks going

Of the 50,000 people infected with HIV each year, 25 percent are teens or young adults ages 13 to 24, according to a recent report by the CDC.

Parents need to talk to their teens about how to protect themselves from HIV — even if it’s an uncomfortable conversation, says Yolanda Evans, M.D., M.P.H., of Seattle Children’s adolescent medicine division.

“Teens and young adults are more likely to get a sexually transmitted infection than older adults,” Evans says. “It’s critical that teens have the facts about HIV and how to prevent it.”

Go to Evans’ blog for more information.

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