Smartening up on Child Development

Smartening up on Child Development

Prenatal information seemed so straightforward to me- the classes, the midwife sessions, the yoga, the hypnobirthing. Whatever combination of the above and others, if any, you chose to do, you probably felt like you had a pretty good idea what might happen during the pregnancy and birth process.

Now the birth process may or may not go to plan, but then we all end up sooner or later in the same situation: taking this small human home who we are completely responsible for. The enormity of this task seemed completely overwhelming to me. I don’t mean the nappies and feeding and sleep- not that these are to be underestimated. What I mean is- the educating, the developing, the picking up on interests, skills, ideas and what they enjoy, and how what I say makes them feel or what they pick up from my behaviour. The potential long term effects of my actions suddenly seemed very potent.

Perhaps I was particularly affected by this due to my background as a developmental psychologist. However, the more I spoke to people and the more I observed, the more apparent it became that there are endless choices we make as parents. Some of these choices are informed, we read the book, googled it and spoke to friends, while others are spontaneous or instinct driven. How do we know what to do? What if someone we know is doing something different?

There are hundreds of examples I could use, but I am going to stick with one close to my heart and professional life. Bilingualism. Should you speak to the baby in both languages? Should one parent speak one language while the other speaks the other? Will the child become confused? Will it slow down their development?

In short, evidence to date tells us: yes, you can speak to the baby in both languages; no, each parent can speak a combination of each language and you can even mix the languages in the same sentence or discussion and your baby’s brain is able to divide the language up and store them in the correct place (!); no, your child won’t become confused; no, it will not slow down their development. In fact, research shows that bilingual children not only tend to have a larger overall vocabulary they also have better executive functioning – that is their memory, their ability to suppress one activity over another, their planning and organisation. So contrary to common belief bilingual (or polylingual) children cope very well and flourish!

Why did I choose this as an example? Well because I suspect the only reason I know the answers to these questions is because of my professional background. Where would I get this information from otherwise?

I am sure there are a number of reliable sources and I am not in any way trying to belittle what they do, but I feel there is a place for research driven information sessions and discussions. This is where the idea for Morphosis started. My aim with Morphosis is to try and give parents more information, specifically, up to date, research based information. If you are looking for a straight answer to something this probably isn’t the place for you, but if you are interested in the latest information- which unfortunately is often conflicting- then join us! 2018 will see regular online discussions which you can join in with, developmental workshops for parents and professionals, as well as support groups for parents who need them.

When your child’s development starts to become a concern, parenting suddenly takes a completely different turn. Maybe you are trying to put your finger on exactly what or when or how something stopped being quite ‘right’? You may have picked up on something yourselves, or maybe a family member said something? For others it might not become apparent until your child is in school. Whenever that moment happens it is equally distressing, and an abyss of confusion and questions can arise.

Currently I am helping parents who suspect or know their child might have a developmental delay by completing the assessments needed to identify areas their child(ren) needs support in. I can then offer up to date support and guidance on how they can help their child, I do not stick to one type of intervention or piece of advice. Each child is different and therefore the way we support, teach and work with them should be too.  Each family is also different, and the support they might need will vary. I can help with anything from signposting to other services, to information, ideas for interventions and helping join the dots for families, schools and other support services.

A Guest Blog from Katerina Draper

About Katerina

Katerina is a Psychologist, graduate of the University of Birmingham, whose PhD and ongoing research has focused on child development, predominantly language development in children and Autism. She has a range of experience including lecturing, being a school governor, additional support teacher, tutor and working with early years in nursery settings. She recently accepted a post at the University of Gloucestershire. During her maternity leave she set up Morphosis Education, an educational consultancy specialising in supporting children,  their families and wider network through potential developmental disorder diagnosis and intervention. She aims to address the problematic waiting times often faced by children who are suspected of needing additional support. Morphosis offers a range of services including assessments for children who may require additional support, short and long term 1:1 work with children, families and school, bespoke school training  programmes, and events aimed to help increase the reach and use of up to date research in developmental psychology for all those interested. You can find Morphosis on Facebook or visit their website.

*Katerina is a member of the Cheltenham MumBoss Club – this post is not endorsed.

Enjoyed this read? Make sure you check out all of the CheltenhamMaman recommendations over at Maman Pages.


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