Think back to when your kids were little, would you be able to tell if they were experiencing developmental delays? Many parents don’t know what to look for to indicate if their child’s development is on or off track and as a result, don’t get connected to specialists and resources early on.
Screening for developmental delays happens most often during a child’s pediatric well-checks. Parents fill out a form with questions such as: “Can your child say five words?” and “Can your child stack five blocks?”. Then they discuss anything that may stand out with their doctor.
Teen Success, Inc. Advocates educate program participants in the stages of early child development so that they can approach their doctors with the right questions and thereby make answering these forms more effective.
Using the ASQ to Strengthen Young Mothers’ Child Development Knowledge
Family context and observation are important factors to assessing a child’s development and without knowing what your child should be able to do, it’s difficult to know what to talk to their pediatrician about. Forms miss the nuances of a child’s behavior, personality, and home environment. These are critical factors that help identify signs of what could be developmental delays.
Across the child development industry, the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ) is used to assess and support children’s development. It’s a tool that supports identifying developmental delays early, so that parents can connect to professionals who can help. It measures development factors including fine and gross motor skills, communication skills, and relationship skills.
Teen Success, Inc. uses the ASQ with every one of the young families we serve. Our program has the unique advantage of one-on-one services, where our Advocates build close relationships with the young mother they’re working with and with her child or children.
Through relationship building, the Advocate gets to know both mom’s and child’s personalities, their home environment, their culture and community’s history, and what each of them needs to thrive.
The close relationship Advocates build with Teen Success participants allows them to implement the ASQ in a fun, engaging way. It is used as a tool to teach, play, practice and build relationships.
“We’re going to meet our young moms where they’re at,” says Niki Singleton, Partnership and Program Manager at Teen Success, Inc. “It’s about educating our participants about their child’s development in a way that isn’t judgmental of them or their children, we just say, ‘let’s play some games.’”
Close relationships and observation matter in early child development practices
Assessing a child’s development from a place of connection let’s Advocates know what factors may be contributing or detracting from a child’s development. It could be something as simple as not having blocks at home to play with or giving moms ideas on different activities they can do to help build fine and gross motor skills. They also provide families with bilingual books and encourage moms to read to their children at least 15 minutes per day to help develop their language and literacy skills.
ASQ screenings happen over weeks of one-on-one sessions. If a child isn’t where they could be, Advocates make sure their participants have what they need at home and teach them how to do the activities.
“We take any opportunity to encourage mom and child to practice,” says Sarah Villa, Director of Impact at Teen Success, Inc. “If the child can’t do the activity the first time, we provide mom with the tools to practice and try again.”
If Advocates don’t see progression, that’s when they consult with mom and connect her to a child development professional who can make a proper diagnosis and get them the early intervention supports they need.
Our Advocates aim to connect young families to the appropriate resources before children turn 3, when they can still get services like speech and developmental therapy for free. After the age of 4, when a child is considered pre-school age, it becomes more complicated for a mother and child to receive services because they have to be connected through the child’s respective school district.
Child development from a place of connection fosters empowerment
Teen Success, Inc. approaches child development from an empowerment perspective. We believe a mother is a child’s first teacher, and for her and her child to be successful, they need the knowledge and tools to move forward.
Mommy-and-me time is an important part of our regular program too because these activities are designed to encourage a child’s development in a fun way, while their moms are learning what their children are capable of and how to help them get there.
These activities encourage parent-child bonding; it’s essential for the physical and mental regulation of hormones for mom and development for her child. When participants in Teen Success, Inc. join during pregnancy, they still get activities to help them learn about and prepare for their baby’s arrival.
Now, because of the pandemic, Advocates have transitioned to virtual facilitation of mommy-and-me time and the ASQ. They drop off both mommy-and-me kits and the materials for the ASQ at their participants’ homes and demonstrate the activities via Instagram, Facetime, and Zoom.