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We all know that talking, reading, and singing are great ways to baby’s and caregivers to bond, but recent research suggests that eye contact can be just as important to a newborn’s development. Infants naturally begin to make eye contact at six to eight weeks and capitalizing on this behavior may help to promote social and emotional development.

In June 2018, Child Trends reported that “researchers conducted two different experiments to determine if eye gaze mattered when an adult sang to an infant. They used EEG [electroencephalogram] to measure brain activity and found when adults and babies looked directly at each other, their brain waves would sync up more than when the adult avoided eye contact. The babies also tried to…

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Autism Awareness on the Neighborhood

April is Autism Awareness Month! Join us as we celebrate our friends and neighbors with autism. You can make a difference! Here on the Neighborhood, we’re celebrating Autism Awareness Month with a round-up of resources on autism for providers and families:

  • Today (April 2nd) is World Autism Awareness Day, an internationally-recognized day to raise awareness about autism and celebrate individuals with autism in our communities and around the globe. Read more about World Autism Awareness Day on the United Nations website: https://www.un.org/en/events/autismday/
  • The First Words Project at Florida State University developed a free, printable…
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World Down Syndrome Day 2019

In 2011, the United Nations (UN) declared March 21st as World Down Syndrome Day, an annual opportunity to raise awareness about Down syndrome. Each year, organizations and individuals around the world gather on March 21st to recognize and celebrate the important role that people with Down syndrome play in our communities. In its resolution, the UN “[recognizes] the inherent dignity, worth and valuable contributions of persons with intellectual disabilities as promoters of the well-being and diversity of their communities, and the importance of their individual autonomy and independence, including the freedom to make their own choices.”…

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The McKinney-Vento Homelessness Assistance Act's definition of homelessness includes the following: “individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence” [Title 42, Chapter 119, Subchapter VI, Part B, Section 11434a]. However, it goes on to explain in greater detail what is meant by homelessness for children and youth. Head Start’s Early Child and Language Center offers an eight-module course on the subject to help broaden your understanding of this important topic. Click here to find the modules. Learn to recognize families who are “experiencing homelessness, conduct…

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The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has developed an online tool for parents to help them recognize whether their child may have a delay in their physical development. Also available in Spanish, the Physical Developmental Delays: What to Look For tool uses family-friendly language to help families identify possible concerns around their child’s physical development and encourage them to talk to their child’s pediatrician. If a parent is concerned about their child’s development, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention created a one-page resource for parents titled “How to…

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From the NACDD website: "Each March, the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD), partners with Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) and National Disabilities Rights Network (NDRN) to create a social media campaign that highlights the many ways in which people with and without disabilities come together to form strong, diverse communities. The campaign seeks to raise awareness about the inclusion of people with developmental disabilities in all areas of community life, as well as awareness to the barriers that people with disabilities still sometimes face in connecting to the communities in which they live." Let us know in the comments what you are doing…

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Rare Disease Day 2019

February 28th is Rare Disease Day. Established in 2008 by EURORDIS and its Council of National Alliances, the goal of Rare Disease Day is to raise awareness for the general public, policy makers, and researchers about rare diseases and their impact on those who live with them.

Did you know…*

  • A disease or disorder is defined as rare in the USA when it affects fewer than 200,000 Americans at any given time.
  • Over 6,000 rare diseases currently exist.
  • 80% of rare…
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DEC Recommended Practices with Examples

Published in 2016, by the Division for Early Childhood (DEC) of the Council for Exceptional Children, this week’s featured resource offers “guidance to practitioners and families about the most effective ways to improve the learning outcomes and promote the development of young children . . . who have or are at-risk for developmental delays or disabilities.” DEC Recommended Practices with Examples was designed to “help bridge the gap between research and practice,” to “support children’s access and participation in inclusive settings and natural environments,” and (to) “address cultural, linguistic, and ability diversity.” Production of this resource was guided by the following parameters:

Recommend practices:

  • Have the…
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The First Words Project at Florida State University has developed a series of free resources for families of children 0-3 to help parents better understand and support their child’s development. Parents and providers can download and print checklists and information related to topics like communication, early intervention, and Autism Spectrum Disorder. All resources are available in both Spanish and English, and the Communication Checklist is also available in Portuguese and Canadian French. There is also a curated list of websites of possible interest to families of young children. To access these resources, visit the First Words Project webpage at https://firstwordsproject.com/resources/.

To learn more about the First Words Project, visit…

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This month-long national health observance, sponsored by the American Dental Association, brings together "thousands of dedicated professionals, healthcare providers, and educators to promote the benefits of good oral health to children, their caregivers, teachers, and many others." This year's campaign slogan is "Brush and clean in between to build a healthy smile." Click on the mini-posters below, provided in English and Spanish, to help spread the word about good oral health.

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With California’s current focus on improving social-emotional outcomes for infants and toddlers with disabilities, we here at the Neighborhood are always on the lookout for helpful, family-friendly tools. One such resource is What to Expect & When to Seek Help: Bright Futures Developmental Tools for Families and Providers. Developed by Bright Futures at Georgetown University and the National Technical Assistance Center for Children's Mental Health, the Tools* are available for any caretaker or professional to access and download for free, both in English and in Spanish. The Infancy tool (English version, Spanish version)…

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Reasons for Concern

"Reasons for Concern that your child or a child in your care may need special help" offers a brief summary of general risk factors and specific red flags for behavior, hearing, vision, movement, communication, and thinking. Created by the California Department of Education along with the Department of Developmental Services and targeting families and caregivers of children birth to age five, this easy to understand brochure provides words families can use to discuss their concerns with doctors and words childcare providers can use with families. It also offers contact information for "next steps," including referral to the local regional center or school district and assessment of the child, when needed. The 2015 version of …

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World Braille Day 2019

January 4th is World Braille Day, declared by the United Nations as “an international day to commemorate the importance of braille.” On this day in 1809, Louis Braille, the founder of braille, was born in France. Braille was blinded in both eyes in early childhood, and went on to invent the system of reading and writing for people with blindness or visual impairments that is known around the world today as braille. Organizations around the world celebrate World Braille Day with events and advocacy efforts to promote braille literacy and the rights of individuals who are blind or have visual impairments. 

To learn more about World Braille Day, visit the World Blind Union website at…

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January is Birth Defects Prevention Month

From the National Birth Defects Prevention Network website:

"January is Birth Defects Prevention Month. The theme for 2019 is 'Best for You. Best for Baby.' We know that not all birth defects can be prevented. But, you can increase your chances of having a healthy baby by doing what you can to be your healthiest self both before and during pregnancy. What is best for you is also best for your baby."

To learn more, click here to visit the National Birth Defects Prevention Network website. There are promotional resources available in English and Spanish.

Happy New Year to all our Early Start…

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Updated Resource for Service Coordinators

Service coordinators have many responsibilities when it comes to supporting the children and families served by Early Start. The Early Start Service Coordination Handbook was developed to provide service coordinators with guidance on the multiple requirements, activities, and best practices that are part of their everyday role. The Handbook is organized into chapters by topic, and each chapter includes the responsibilities, quality practices, and tips for success pertaining to that topic. Helpful resources are included with each chapter, including checklists, Parents’ Rights guides, and other publications.

The Handbook, originally published in 2005, is currently undergoing renovation to reflect the latest federal and state regulations and best practices in the field. The following revised chapters are now available…

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Make the Most of Playtime

Fred Rogers said, “For children, play is serious learning.” That’s why the folks at the Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (CSEFEL) at Vanderbilt University want us to Make the Most of Playtime. In an article of the same name, adapted from a Zero-to-Three resource, CSEFEL staff describe not only the importance of play but the hallmarks of play development over the first three years of life. They also provide specific ideas parents can try with children at various ages, like imitating sounds in a back-and-forth “conversation” with young babies and supporting an older toddler’s imagination “by providing dress-up clothes . . . and props such as plastic kitchen bowls and plates or toy musical instruments.” This is an excellent resource to share with families. Check it out and share your ideas in the comments below.…

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Tis the season for giving gifts, including to the littlest ones in your life. Yet according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 2017 there were approximately 251,700 toy-related injuries; around 36 percent of those injuries happened to children under 5*. To encourage a safe and fun holiday season, Prevent Blindness has declared December as Safe Toys and Gifts Awareness Month.

Keep the holidays joyful by keeping the following guidelines in mind when choosing toys for children of all ages**:

  • Inspect all toys before purchasing. Avoid those that shoot or include parts that fly off. The toy should have no sharp edges or points and should be sturdy enough to withstand impact without breaking, being crushed, or being pulled…
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On Wednesday, December 5, at 12:00 PM Pacific Time, The Western Region Public Health Training Center & the Southwest Telehealth Resource Center are hosting a FREE webinar, entitled “Fires, Mudslides, Earthquakes, Shootings: Promoting Personal and Community Resiliency after Mass Trauma.”

Clinical psychologist and behavior sleep medicine specialist Professor Patricia Haynes (University of Arizona) will support participants to “formulate ideas to promote connectedness and hope within the community.” She will also “describe evidence-based approaches to the promotion of resiliency” for individuals exposed to trauma and identify the “five essential elements of short-term mass trauma intervention.”

Register here for this informative webinar:…

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Universal Children's Day - November 20

The United Nations has declared November 20th to be Universal Children’s Day, a day for people to come together worldwide “to promote international togetherness, awareness among children worldwide, and improving children's welfare.”*

A brief history of important events related to Universal Children’s Day:

For more information on how you can participate in Universal Children’s Day, check out the United Nations website at…

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“The early childhood years build the foundation for a lifetime of health and development” (DEC, 2012).

In a position statement from September 2012, the Division for Early Childhood (DEC) of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) outlined six recommendations “for the promotion of health, safety, and well-being of all young children including those with or at‐risk for disabilities.”

These six recommendations included the following:

Prenatal care services and early universal screening;

  • Culturally-responsive, developmentally appropriate, individualized care in affordable, safe, nurturing, and inclusive environments;
  • Correctly administered, ethical, valid, reliable, culturally sensitive, formal and informal assessments;
  • High quality systems of pre‐service and in‐service professional…
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