9/23 class – panel discussion

The class today heard a panel of local clinicians who spoke about the trends in motor development among pre-school children.

The panel included Dr Scott Cochrane from Holyoke Pediatrics, Arlene Spooner, PT,  who has worked locally in early intervention for thirty years, and Nancy Milch, OT, who has worked for many years in the Holyoke Schools.  Tom Murphy, Bogin Playscape Project director , also participated.

Arlene Spooner spoke from her years in early intervention and described how the “back to sleep”  movement, which became official policy from the American Board of Pediatrics some 18 years ago has had a impact on how children develop. The emphasis on placing children on their backs when sleeping (with the intention of reducing incidents of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) ) has also had the unintended result of reducing the amount of time and experience many children spend in “tummy time”.  Arlene spoke on the importance of infants  learning about the world and their own bodies that is the direct result of exploring in the prone position, pushing off the floor with their hands, and experiencing holding their head up against gravity as they learn to move. Arlene also offered her perspective on the overuse of  car seats, floor seats and other devices that have become so prevalent in “holding ” babies instead of allowing infants to crawl and explore, and that these devices do not offer the opportunity to develop the  foundation motor, visual and sensory motor  skills that children need.

Dr Cochrane suggested that the “back to sleep” policy was still  needed as a means of reducing SIDS, but that he was also concerned with the  use of devices and seats for children that  reduce the time infants spend on their tummies, and that he suggests that parents take time to allow infants to crawl and explore outside of any devices.   He also described how many families report to him that their children do not spend much time playing outside,  and spend many hours each day in front of “screens”.

Nancy Milch offered her view from the Holyoke schools, where their has been a dramatic increase in the number of children referred for OT services, especially related to fine motor skills. She feels that the children who enter school unable to hold a writing tool properly are often lacking in the foundation skills that come from using their hands to play and explore. She contrasted this view with her experience with children in Nicaragua, where young kids spend much more time in creative outdoor play, climbing fences, gardening and helping with chores, and  exploring their own neighborhoods, and how this play  can contribute of development of  fine motor skills needed for writing.

The class was videotaped, and we hope to have some sections of the panel discussion posted on the website soon

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