Saturday, April 3, 2010

How to Help a Child Be Creative

Provide "Open-Ended" Activities

1. Step 1
When we think of doing activities with children, we often think of a predesigned craft or art activity. We make a model and we say, "Make this ______." Or we supply children with coloring books and say, "Color this picture." However, giving children activities with only one way to complete them can stifle creativity.
By contrast, providing children with open-ended material, or materials to make something with no preconceived end-result, will help them use their own creativity. Good open-ended materials include playdough, paint, crayons, markers, and various colors and sizes of paper.

2. Step 2
Give them the materials and let them decide what to do with them. You might ask, "What should we make with these?" Resist the urge to draw or make something first, because children might feel they should do the same as you. As adults, our skills are much more refined than children's, leading them to possibly feel inadequate in their own burgeoning abilities when they discover they cannot quite model what we can do.

3. Step 3
Encourage children by commenting on what they are doing rather than making evaluative statements like "good job." You might say, "Look at the colors you are using!" or "Look how much fun you are having!" This non-judgemental stance will help them feel good about what they are doing, rather than doing and making things because this behavior pleases you.

Let Children Decide

4. Step 1
Children who are allowed to make decisions become more adept at problem solving. Opportunities to make decisions also allow them to be creative in the way they approach problems. This, of course, is for children who are developmentally capable of offering suggestions, but can begin as early as 2 years of age if the child has the verbal skills.

5. Step 2
When you are confronted with a problem concerning your child, ask, "What do you think we should do about this?"

6. Step 3
Listen to your child and give explanations for suggestions that will not work. However, if your child comes up with an idea that is reasonably acceptable, let him make the choice. Giving a child some amount of control over his world will also help him gain confidence in his abilities.

Limit Electronic Activities

7. Step 1
Remember that television, video games and computer time are all generally passive activities. They don't allow children to be an active participant, thereby limiting the use of their cognitive skills and creativity.

8. Step 2
Decide on an acceptable amount of time for your child to watch television or play on the computer. Discuss with her the times of day and the amount of time she will be able to watch. For instance, you might say, "We can watch two shows after school each day and then the television will be turned off."

9. Step 3
Watch and play the games with your children. Ask them questions about what they see or what they think will happen next. This will allow children to think about what they see, rather than just being passive observers.

Allow Unstructured Playtime

10. Step 1
In an effort to cram as much learning time in as possible, parents often over-structure their children's schedules. But allowing children time for unstructured play lets them be creative. It also allows children time to make mistakes, learn cause and effect, and do things that interest them.

11. Step 2
Don't worry if your child complains that he is bored. Boredom can be the catalyst for many creative activities. Support your child by asking him what he would like to do. If necessary, offer suggestions or open-ended materials, and say, "What should we do with these?" After a time, even the most ho-hum feeling child will find something to do, and his creativity will likely grow because of it.

12. Step 3
Provide plenty of down time. This is especially important for children who spend half their day at school. The school day is very structured, so allowing children time to just "hang out" can recharge their creativity.

Child Development in the Preschool Years

Child Development in the Preschool Years

Cognitive, Emotional, Social, and Physical Growth in Early Childhood

Development in the preschool years is characterized through a variety of cognitive, emotional, social, and physical changes. Although not entirely proficient or sophisticated in any of these areas, the young child is very capable of gaining new skills.

Cognitive Development

As a toddler moves into the preschool age range (starting roughly be age three), cognitive development becomes more representational and includes metacognitive growth (awareness of one's own thoughts), magical belief, and the increased ability to understand and use symbols.

There are multiple ways or methods to foster cognitive development during the preschool years. Some simple ideas include:

  • Provide opportunities for dramatic play such as dress up, play kitchen, or puppet theater.
  • Read books together.
  • Ask the child to read the symbols (pictures or illustrations) in picture books and create a story based on what is viewed.
  • After going on an outing, field trip, or vacation ask the child to draw a picture of what he or she remembers.

Emotional Development

Emotional development during the preschool years encompasses self-concept, self-regulation, and a better understanding of emotions and how to express them.

To help foster emotional development in young children, look for activities that allow the child to take control over, and name, his or her actions and feelings. It is important to promote a positive, healthy self-image. Praise the child for self-regulation tasks such as using words to express negative emotions instead of hitting or biting.

Some ideas to help promote emotional development include:

  • Create an emotion chart or poster by taking pictures of faces that express a variety of emotions (i.e., happy, sad, mad).
  • Ask the child to create a self portrait.
  • Create a family or class project (examples include group collage, group painting, or sculpture). Place all materials to be used in the center of the table or work area, and ask everyone to share.
  • Be a model. Remember that your child is watching you. If you get angry, keep yourself under control. Talk to your child about what happened, and how you dealt with the situation.
  • Discuss emotions with your child. If your child sees another child get angry, have a tantrum, or seem sad, ask your child why she thinks that this happened.

Social Development

Cognitive and emotional growth play a large role in the young child's social development. Children of preschool age can be found making true friends and engaging in cooperative play.

The following suggestions may help to promote positive social development:

  • Join a play group or a class.
  • Schedule playdates for your child. Make sure to start taking your child's friend choices into consideration. Instead of choosing the playdate based on the parent, ask your child who he or she would like to spend time with.
  • For children age four and over, join a non-competitive sport. Look for leagues with parent coaches and a no score keeping policy.

Physical Development

Physical development at this age includes an increase in the coordination of gross motor movements and more specialized fine motor abilities. This leads the child to develop new skills in athletics and artistic domains (e.g., throwing, cutting with scissors, drawing).

To foster physical (both gross and fine motor) development try to engage the child in activities that involve both large and small movements:

  • Play catch.
  • Try t-ball.
  • Have your own race or set up an obstacle course.
  • Engage in art activities such as drawing with crayons, painting with different sizes of brushes, cutting with scissors, and using a pencil.

As the young child changes from a toddler into a preschooler it is important to understand and promote positive growth through multiple domains. This includes cognitive, emotional, social, and physical development.

Children need to be out in the sun often

Children need to be out in the sun often
By Halimatul Hamid(new straits time)
KUALA LUMPUR: Children need to play and exercise more under the sun, said Universiti Putra Malaysia nutrition and dietetics department head, Associate Professor Dr Zalilah Mohd Shariff.

Addressing researchers and dieticians at the GlaxoSmithKline symposium on "Vitamin D Insufficiency In Malaysian School Children" yesterday, she said: "This is the best and easiest way for children to get their dose of the sunshine vitamin.

"Studies have shown that many children with vitamin D deficiency do not get enough sun exposure because parents are worried that their children will be exposed to air pollutants and harmful rays that could cause skin cancer.

"This misconception needs to be changed.

"The recommended sun exposure is just 10 to 15 minutes, three to five times a week," she said adding that 70 per cent of primary school students are vitamin D deficient.

Zalilah added that although students spend an hour a week for physical exercise in school, most of the activities were conducted under the shade.

"I have seen teachers conducting lessons under a tree or in the hall.

"There are even some who would give directions to their students while holding an umbrella," she claimed.

Zalilah said vitamin D does not only reduce the risk of rickets, cancer, diabetes mellitus and hypertension, it also helps boost the immune system to fight against fever and flu.

According to Universiti Malaya paediatric endocrinologist Dr Muhammad Yazid Jalaludin, groups at risk of deficiency include pregnant women, mothers who breast feed and obese children.

He said a preliminary study done by the University Malaya Medical Centre showed that 60 per cent of pregnant women in the third trimester suffered from vitamin D deficiency.

He said children and adults needed 400 units of vitamin D daily. Vitamin D content is high in salmon, sardines, mackerel, tuna, cod liver oil, egg yolk and fortified foods like milk, bread and cheese.

2010-02-06 14:24 新洲日报


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重慶一名在北京謀生的民工,因妻子患病,女兒早前突然失蹤,而他又要開電單車載客養家,無暇照 顧兩歲兒子,日間惟有將兒子用鐵鏈鎖在街邊。
事件引起中外媒體和民間的關注,紛紛向他們施以援手,目前已有學校免費讓男童入讀幼兒園,直到 他畢業為止。
北京華冠購物商場最近出現了一個被鏈條鎖在電燈柱的2歲男童,乍看似乎是在虐待兒童,引起了路 人的關注。男童的父親程傳六表示,靠開電單車載客養家的他為了掙到鈔票要跑遍整個城市,微薄的收入也讓他實在無法負擔保姆費,鎖住他是唯一可以防止孩子被 人綁架的方法。
程傳六表示,因妻子患有精神病,4歲的女兒半個月前突然失蹤了,為保兒子,“只能拴住他,怕他 丟了”。
男童叫金蛋兒。每天早上程傳六開工前,把金蛋兒用鐵鏈鎖在路邊,有客時就請小販或其他電單車司 機幫忙照顧一下,直到下班才把孩子接回家。
近日,北京天寒地凍,氣溫在0℃下,可憐的小金蛋被兩米長的鐵鏈鎖住腳腕,臉蛋還凍得通紅,時 而坐在紙板上,喝爸爸留給他的冷奶,奶嘴已發黑。
程傳六稱,妻子生了三孩子,大女兒半個月前失蹤了,第二個兒子不幸夭折,金蛋兒是第三個,現妻 子又懷孕了。他稱,鄉下窮,回去沒飯吃,在京開車搭客每日還能賺四、五十元人民幣,至少能解決溫飽。對於孩子的未來,他一臉茫然:“沒想那麼多,過一天是 一天吧!”
近日,北京民眾紛紛向程家施以援助,有公益機構願意幫程家尋找失蹤的女兒。當地一家幼兒園稱, 願免費接收金蛋兒入園,直至他畢業。
而在輿論壓力下,當地政府急補鑊。房山區政府稱,民政部門早兩、三年前就注意到程家情況,曾勸 他們去救助站,也給他們送過衣服食品,但他們不接受援助。
中國時事評論員阮占江指,金蛋兒的遭遇是北京現代奢華的另一面,政府關心農民工不應只做表面文 章,而應切實行動。(大馬星洲日報)

How To Help a Child With Autism

Neglected child grew up with dogs

Credit to Chok Yuh Ping, T5

Comparing Piaget and Vygotsky

Comparing Piaget and Vygotsky

Methods and approaches to teaching have been greatly influenced by the research of Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky. Both have contributed to the field of education by offering explanations for children's cognitive learning styles and abilities. While Piaget and Vygotsky may differ on how they view cognitive development in children, both offer educators good suggestions on how teach certain material in a developmentally appropriate manner.

Piaget proposed that cognitive development from infant to young adult occurs in four universal and consecutive stages: sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operations, and formal operations (Woolfolk, A., 2004). Between the ages of zero and two years of age, the child is in the sensorimotor stage. It is during this stage the child experiences his or her own world through the senses and through movement. During the latter part of the sensorimotor stage, the child develops object permanence, which is an understanding that an object exists even if it is not within the field of vision (Woolfolk, A., 2004). The child also begins to understand that his or her actions could cause another action, for example, kicking a mobile to make the mobile move. This is an example of goal-directed behavior. Children in the sensorimotor stage can reverse actions, but cannot yet reverse thinking (Woolfolk, A., 2004).

During a child's second and seventh year, he or she is considered to be in the preoperational stage. Piaget stated that during this stage, the child has not yet mastered the ability of mental operations. The child in the preoperational stage still does not have the ability to think through actions (Woolfolk, A., 2004). Children in this stage are considered to be egocentric, meaning they assume others share their points of view (Woolfolk, A. 2004). Because of egocentricism, children in this stage engage in collective monologues, in which each child is talking, but not interacting with the other children (Woolfolk, A. 2004). Another important aspect of the preoperational stage is the acquisition of the skill of conservation. Children understand that the amount of something remains the same even if its appearance changes (Woolfolk, A., 2004). A child in the preoperational stage would not be able to perform the famous Piagetian conservation problem of liquid and volume, because he or she has not yet developed reversible thinking – "thinking backward, from the end to the beginning" (Woolfolk, A., 33).

Concrete operations occurs between the ages of seven to eleven years. Students in the later elementary years, according to Piaget, learn best through hands-on discovery learning, while working with tangible objects. Reasoning processes also begin to take shape in this stage. Piaget stated that the three basic reasoning skills acquired during this stage were identity, compensation, and reversibility (Woolfolk, A., 2004). By this time, the child learns that a "person or object remains the same over time" (identity) and one action can cause changes in another (compensation) (Woolfolk, A., 2004). This child has an understanding of the concept of seriation – ordering objects by certain physical aspects. The child is also able to classify items by focusing on a certain aspect and grouping them accordingly (Woolfolk, A., 2004).

Piaget's final stage of cognitive development is formal operations, occurring from age eleven years to adulthood. People who reach this stage (and not everyone does, according to Piaget) are able to think abstractly. They have achieved skills such as inductive and deductive reasoning abilities. People in the formal operations stage utilize many strategies and resources for problem solving. They have developed complex thinking and hypothetical thinking skills. Through hypothetico-deductive reasoning, one is able to identify the factors of a problem, and deduce solutions (Woolfolk, A., 2004). People in this stage also imagine the best possible solutions or principles, often through the ability to think ideally (Woolfolk, A., 2004). The acquisition of meta-cognition (thinking about thinking) is also a defining factor of those people in formal operations.

Based on Piaget's proposed stages and ability levels at each, certain teaching strategies have been offered for teaching in the Piagetian school of thought. In the preoperational stage, the teacher would have to use actions and verbal instruction. Because the child has not yet mastered mental operations, the teacher must demonstrate his or her instructions, because the child cannot yet think through processes. The use of visual aids, while keeping instructions short would most benefit the child in this stage (Woolfolk, A., 2004). Hands-on activities also aid with learning future complex skills, as the text mentions, reading comprehension (Woolfolk, A., 2004). The teacher must be sensitive to the fact that these children, according to Piaget, are still egocentric and may not realize that not everyone shares the same view (Woolfolk, A., 2004).

Teaching children in the concrete operations stage involves hands-on learning, as well. Students are encouraged to perform experiments and testing of objects. By performing experiments and solving problems, students develop logical and analytical thinking skills (Woolfolk, A., 2004). Teachers should provide short instruction and concrete examples and offer time for practice. With skills such as classification, compensation, and seriation developing during this stage, teachers should provide ample opportunities to organize groups of objects on "increasingly complex levels" (Woolfolk, A., 37).

Teaching those in the formal operations stage involves giving students the opportunity to advance their skills in scientific reasoning and problem solving, as begun in the concrete operations stage. Students should be offered open-ended projects in which they explore many solutions to problems. Opportunities to explore hypothetical possibilities should be granted to these students often. As the text states, teachers need to teach the "broad concepts" of the material while relating it to their lives. Idealism is assumed to be acquired by a person in the formal operations stage; therefore, understanding broad concepts and their application to one's life aid in the realization of ideal concepts.

Piaget also proposed that a child acts on his own environment for learning. Social interaction takes place mainly to move a young child away from egocentricism. It is also important to note that Piaget stated that a child either held the mental structure for conservation, for example, or he did not. A child in the preoperational stage could not be taught to understand the liquid volume experiment; she does not possess the mental structure of a child in concrete operations.

As part of their cognitive development, children also develop schemes, which are mental representations of people, objects, or principles. These schemes can be changed or altered through what Piaget called assimilation and accommodation. Assimilation is information we already know. Accommodation involves adapting one's existing knowledge to what is perceived. Disequilibrium occurs when new knowledge does not fit with one's accumulated knowledge. When one reaches what Piaget called equilibrium, assimilation and accommodation have occurred to create a new stage of development (Woolfolk, A., 2004). When learning the concept of conservation, a child must first "struggle" with the idea that the liquid amount in the cylinders has not changed (disequilibrium). After accommodating the new knowledge, equilibrium occurs, and the child may advance to a new cognitive stage (concrete operations).

Around this time, another psychologist was offering his views on child cognitive development. Lev Vygotsky offered an alternative to Piaget's stages of cognitive development. Vygotsky's Sociocultural Theory of Development became a major influence in the field of psychology and education (Woolfolk, A., 2004). This theory stated that students learn through social interactions and their culture – much different from Piaget's theory that stated children act on their environment to learn. Through what Vygotsky called "dialogues," we socially interact and communicate with others to learn the cultural values of our society. Vygotsky also believed that "human activities take place in cultural settings and cannot be understood apart from these settings" (Woolfolk, A., 45). Therefore, our culture helps shape our cognition.

Through these social interactions, we move toward more individualized thinking. The co-constructed process involves people interacting during shared activities, usually to solve a problem (Woolfolk, A., 2004). When the child receives help through this process, he or she may be able to utilize better strategies in the future, should a similar problem arise. The co-constructed dialogues lead to internalization, which in turn leads one to independent thinking (Woolfolk, A., 2004).

Scaffolding is another Vygotskian principle for the sociocultural perspective. Scaffolding involves providing the learner with hints or clues for problem solving in order to allow the student to better approach the problem in the future (Woolfolk, A., 2004). While Piaget would assume the student does not yet have the mental structures to solve such a problem, Vygotsky would offer encouragement or strategies, in the form of scaffolding, in order for the student to attempt the problem.

The development of language is considered to be a major principle of Vygotsky's sociocultural theory. The language of a certain group of people indicates their cultural beliefs and value system. For example, a tribe with many words meaning "hunting" indicates that hunting is an important aspect of their lives. The text states that children learn language much the same way that children learn cognitive skills. Vygotsky states that humans may have "built in biases, rules, and constraints about language that restrict the number of possibilities considered" (Woolfolk, A., 2004). A child's thinking regarding these language constraints is very important in language development (Woolfolk, A., 2004).

Another aspect of language development involves private speech. Private speech is self-talk children (and adults) may use to guide actions and aid in thinking. While Piaget may view private speech as egocentric or immature, Vygotsky understood the importance of self-directed speech. Private speech is considered to be self-directed regulation and communication with the self, and becomes internalized after about nine years (Woolfolk, A., 2004).

Vygotsky also emphasized the importance of cultural tools in cognition. Cultural tools can be any technological tool or any symbolic tool which aids in communication (Woolfolk, A., 2004). Language, the media, television, computers, and books are only a handful of all the cultural tools available for problem solving or learning. Higher-level processing is "mediated by psychological tools, such as language, signs, and symbols" (Woolfolk, A., 2004). After receiving co-constructed help, children internalize the use of the cultural tools, and are better able to utilize the tools in the future on their own (Woolfolk, A., 2004).

Another Vygotskian principle for teaching involves the zone of proximal development. Like Piaget, Vygotsky believed that there were some problems out of a child's range of understanding. However, in contrast, Vygotsky believed that given proper help and assistance, children could perform a problem that Piaget would consider to be out of the child's mental capabilities. The zone is the area at which a child can perform a challenging task, given appropriate help (Woolfolk, A., 2004).

Piaget and Vygotsky also differ in how they approach discovery learning. Piaget advocated for discovery learning with little teacher intervention, while Vygotsky promoted guided discovery in the classroom. Guided discovery involves the teacher offering intriguing questions to students and having them discover the answers through testing hypotheses (Woolfolk, A., 2004). The students are engaged in the discovery process; however, they are still receiving assistance from a more knowledgeable source.

A teacher utilizing Vygotskian methods for teaching would be a very active member in her student's education. The teacher would apply the technique of scaffolding by providing assistance and offering feedback when relating new information (Woolfolk, A., 2004). Teachers should also make sure that students are provided adequate tools for learning. Students should be taught how to use tools such as the computer, resource books, and graphs in order to better utilize these tools in the future (Woolfolk, A., 2004). Teaching in the Vygotskian method would also incorporate group or peer learning (Woolfolk, A., 2004). By having students tutor each other through dialogues and scaffolding, the students can begin to internalize the new information and come to a better understanding of the material.

I believe that both Piaget and Vygotsky provided educators with important views on cognitive development in the child. Piaget proposed that children progress through the stages of cognitive development through maturation, discovery methods, and some social transmissions through assimilation and accommodation (Woolfolk, A., 2004). Vygotsky's theory stressed the importance of culture and language on one's cognitive development.

Regarding the two cognitive theories, I would be more apt to apply Vygotskian principles to my classroom. I believe that principles such as scaffolding, co-constructed knowledge, dialogue, and cultural tools are all important components of a student's knowledge acquisition. By helping students within their zone of proximal development, we offer them useful learning strategies which they internalize and utilize later. Piaget proposed many applicable educational strategies, such as discovery learning with an emphasis on activity and play. However, Vygotsky incorporated the importance of social interactions and a co-constructed knowledge base to the theory of cognitive development.

In conclusion, a teacher's focus should be to provide assistance to students in need, and provide cultural tools as educational resources. Teachers should provide for group and peer learning, in order for students to support each other through the discovery process. Especially in today's diverse classroom, the teacher needs to be sensitive to her student's cultural background and language, and be an active participant in his knowledge construction.

Cognitive Stages for Child Development - Stages of Learning

Cognitive Stages for Child Development
Learning is a complex process that develops through stages. It builds on innate abilities that are inherited and genetically coded at birth. Very few of us learn anywhere near our maximum capacity as established by our innate skills. This is why both study and practice rewards most people with growth in learning and performance. The flow of our learning development progresses through the stages of sensory and motor skills, cognitive abilities, and finally results in the ability to assimilate formal instruction. A deficiency in any one stage can result in problems in the following dependent stages.

Schools, government programs, and special education all focus on academic instruction. Unfortunately, they seldom recognize that not all students possess the fundamental cognitive skills required to efficiently process and understand information presented through academic instruction. Without the appropriate cognitive skills in place, increased academic instruction and tutoring does nothing to improve learning ability. It accomplishes little in its effort to help the students learn. A closer look at the stages of learning will reveal the importance of cognitive skill development.
  • Innate Abilities - A person's innate abilities are at the foundation of the learning process. These represent the genetically determined abilities -- and limitations -- we possess at birth that we inherited from our parents. Mozart certainly possessed a greater innate musical capacity than can be said for most of us, but most of us can improve our musical ability with practice. Our upward limits are defined by innate abilities, but how near we come to performing at those upper limits is determined by other elements necessary to learning.

  • Sensory/Motor Skills - Sensory and motor skills build on the foundation of our innate abilities. Sensory skills are those such as vision, hearing, and touch. They are responsible for receiving information. Motor skills relate to muscles and movement and include crawling, walking, running, handwriting, and speaking. Motor skills give expression to the information our senses receive and process.

    Both sensory and motor skills are partially determined by genetic code and partly learned through repetitive interaction with the environment. These skills, in almost everyone, can be improved with proper practice. This is the basis for athletic and music instrument practice, physical therapy, and other similar performance enhancement efforts.

  • Cognitive Skills - Cognitive abilities allow us to process the sensory information we collect. These include our ability to analyze, evaluate, retain information, recall experiences, make comparisons, and determine action. Although cognitive skills have an innate component, the bulk of cognitive skills are learned. When this development does not occur naturally, cognitive weaknesses are the result. These weaknesses diminish an individual's capacity to learn and are difficult to correct without specific and appropriate intervention. Like sensory and motor skills, cognitive skills can be practiced and improved with the right training. Changes in cognitive ability can be seen dramatically in cases where an injury affects a certain physical area of the brain. The correct therapy can actually "rewire" a patient's brain, and cognitive function can be restored or enhanced. This is also true in students. Weak cognitive skills can be strengthened, and normal cognitive skills can be enhanced to increase ease and performance in learning.

  • Instruction - Formal instruction is the last and most diverse level of learning. This includes academic subjects such as algebra, reading, and typing -- subjects that are neither intuitive nor likely to develop on their own. They are the result of formal education and are dependent on the strength of an individual's underlying cognitive skills if they are to be learned successfully and easily. The knowledge base of each subject can be expanded, but without the proper foundation of cognitive skills, academic progress can be a difficult and frustrating struggle.

Cognitive Stages for Child Development – Cognitive Skills are Trainable and Can Be Improved
As individuals grow and as academic challenges increase in complexity, it becomes important that the underlying skills supporting those challenges are in place and functioning properly. Strong cognitive skills are the key to strong academic performance. Without them in place, it is impossible for an individual with learning or reading problems to perform to their potential. LearningRx training programs (ThinkRx and ReadRx) focus on training and developing the underlying cognitive skills required to excel academically. Through accurate testing and skill-specific training exercises, the programs are tailored to overcome a person's individual weaknesses. The training is delivered in a one-on-one environment to produce rapid, noticeable, measurable changes. It is only after an individual's cognitive skill set is in place and functioning effectively that they will be able to successfully conquer the challenges of learning. If you or someone you know struggles to learn or read, the reason may be a weakness in one or more underlying cognitive skills. If this is the cause of the learning difficulty, it can be corrected, and a lifetime of faster, easier learning and reading can be the result. Use the Learning Center Locator to contact the nearest LearningRx Training Center and learn more about cognitive skills training and how it can improve your life.

Music Education Benefits

***Most experts agree that children who study music at an early age not only excel academicallly, but see emotional benefits as well.***

Posted by Wong Shui Tong, T3

Joseph Campos- Visual Cliff Experiment

Credits to Tan Shi Sheng, T3

German Priest in Church Abuse Case Is Suspended

MUNICH — The priest at the center of a German sexual-abuse scandal that has embroiled Pope Benedict XVI continued working with children for more than 30 years, even though a German court convicted him of molesting boys.

The priest, Peter Hullermann, who had previously been identified only by the first letter of his last name, was suspended from his duties only on Monday. That was three days after the church acknowledged that the pope, then Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger, had responded to early accusations of molestation by allowing the priest to move to Munich for therapy in 1980.

Hundreds of victims have come forward in recent months in Germany with accounts of sexual abuse from decades past. But no case has captured the attention of the nation like that of Father Hullermann, not only because of the involvement of the future pope, but also because of the impunity that allowed a child molester to continue to work with altar boys and girls for decades after his conviction.

Benedict not only served as the archbishop of the diocese where the priest worked, but also later as the cardinal in charge of reviewing sexual abuse cases for the Vatican. Yet until the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising announced that Father Hullermann had been suspended on Monday, he continued to serve in a series of Bavarian parishes.

In 1980, the future pope reviewed the case of Father Hullermann, who was accused of sexually abusing boys in the Diocese of Essen, including forcing an 11-year-old boy to perform oral sex. The future pope approved his transfer to Munich. On Friday, a deputy took responsibility for allowing the priest to return to full pastoral duties shortly afterward. Six years later, Father Hullermann was convicted of sexually abusing children in the Bavarian town of Grafing. Father Hullermann’s identity was revealed Sunday, when a man whose marriage he was scheduled to perform in the spa town of Bad Tölz stood up in the pews and began shouting as the head of the congregation was speaking in vague terms about the scandal.

But even after the revelations of last week, parishioners there, where Father Hullermann had been working, described him glowingly, calling him friendly, down to earth and popular with churchgoers, especially children and teenagers.

Father Hullermann’s story is one of a beloved priest with a damaging secret church officials helped him hide.

School records in the town of Grafing show that he taught religion six hours a week at a public high school starting Sept. 18, 1984 — less than five years after he was moved from Essen for abusing boys. The only mention of the case in the church records there said that lay elders were informed of “criminal proceedings,” though locals said there were rumors that it had something to do with children.

Rupert Frania, the priest in charge of the congregation in Bad Tölz, where Father Hullermann spent the last year and a half, said in an interview on Sunday that his superiors did not tell them about the priest’s history of sexual abuse.

“They should have told me before,” said Father Frania, who said he first heard about Father Hullermann’s conviction last week as the story was about to become public.
The statement by the archdiocese said that there was “no evidence of recent sexual abuses, similar to those for which he was convicted in 1986.”

In June 1986, the priest was convicted of sexually abusing minors and given an 18-month suspended sentence with five years of probation, fined 4,000 marks and ordered to undergo therapy.

Repeated attempts to contact Father Hullermann at his home in Bad Tölz were unsuccessful.
“He is not here at the moment,” Father Frania said.

Significant questions remain unanswered, especially about the pope’s involvement during his time as archbishop and how closely he supervised decisions about the priest. Nor have any of the victims in Grafing as yet come forward publicly.

Even before this latest case, the European sexual-abuse scandal had deeply damaged the church’s reputation in the pope’s home country, Germany. The congregations in Bad Tölz and in Garching an der Alz, where Father Hullermann worked for 21 years, responded with shock and anger, but also with a strong defense for a priest lauded for his approachability, good humor and ability to connect with parishioners on everyday issues.

In Bad Tölz on Sunday, after the groom’s outburst, there was consternation. Churchgoers, like Eva Wankerl, who said they had come to the service on Sunday because they were expecting Father Hullermann to give the sermon, left in tears. “He was somehow so close to the people, compared to some of the others who could seem superior,” said Ms. Wankerl, 61, a pensioner.

But she also said it was time that the church stopped hiding abuse cases and questioned why priests seemed to be held to a less strict standard of morality than ordinary parishioners. “If you get divorced and remarry you can’t take communion, but someone convicted of molesting children can celebrate Mass for the rest of his life,” she said.

Indeed his year and a half in Bad Tölz seemed more plum than punishment. He lived just off the historic pedestrian thoroughfare in one of Germany’s most beautiful spa towns.

His sudden departure in 2008 from Garching, where for years he worked as the parish administrator, was an emotional affair complete with a brass band and the firing of salutes, according to a local newspaper article posted to the church Web site.

But the story of his departure takes on strange overtones in light of the revelations, describing “Hulli,” as the children nicknamed him, as “a priest to touch,” who succeeded in creating “a young church and to pass on his love of liturgy in enduring fashion to the young generation.”
When he moved to Bad Tölz, it was under the condition that he was not supposed to have dealings with children. Though he was supposed to tend to tourists, he worked with few restrictions, including celebrating Mass with altar boys.

Michael Leitenstorfer, who said his children had worked in services with Father Hullermann, strongly defended the priest. “I’ve personally experienced how Father Hullermann treated our children absolutely appropriately, but also lovingly,” he said.

Father Frania added that he had heard no accusations against Father Hullermann during his time in the parish and said that people should practice forgiveness toward him. “If we can no longer believe in forgiving sins, we might as well close the whole store,” he said.

Victor Homola contributed reporting from Berlin.

Credits to Ng Boon Yong, T3

Piaget's Cognitive Stages of Development

Credits to Tan Shi Sheng, T3

Development of Infant Visual Tracking. Activity 1 from What Babies Can Do" DVD

Credits to Tan Shi Sheng, T3

The Strange Situation - Mary Ainsworth

Credits to Tan Shi Sheng, T3

聖誕活動 - 全班演唱班歌『地球的孩子』

Credits to Tan Shi Sheng, T3

Friday, April 2, 2010

Children Who Have Nothing... We Can Give Something

Credits to Teoh Goon Hooi,T3

i have a voice...

Credits to Teoh Goon Hooi, T3

Naughty Kids

Credits to Chong Woan Rong, T3

Something Something ..Naughty kids ......Nautanki saley !!!!

Credits to Chong Woan Rong, T3

男子拍卖8岁重病女童初吻 称是做公益

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Child Abuse Awareness - Do You Care?

Credits to Chong Woan Rong, T3

If You Build A Library, Your Reader Will Come!

February 12, 2009

Start the Reading Chain
If you build the right kind of environment, readers will soon flourish.
It should be every parent’s goal to help children learn to read and fall in love with it because reading opens doors. It is braided together tightly with life’s results: scores in examination, job success, confidence in social engagements, accumulation of wealth and personal happiness.
Reading is similar to the development of an athlete. The skills to help a reader flourish will improve with consistent and meaningful practice. As parents and teachers, we must provide a warm and consistent environment for the skill to thrive, just as the athlete requires a field or gymnasium and consistent practice sessions to prepare him to win the game.
We need to continuously seduce our children to read more and more books until such stage when they would hate to go to bed at night because they can’t wait to unravel the mystery of the next chapter. One way to do this is to start your own family library.

A home library encourages children to read more. It doesn’t have to be a whole room, with elaborate or expensive wooden bookshelves to provide rich reading experiences. Expensive collector’s books aren’t necessarily the best way to capture a child’s imagination and attention. But a good family library does involve two important things: time and space – time to find reading materials that will appeal to everyone, and space to keep and enjoy them.

A corner of one room, with a bookshelf, adequate lighting, a soft mat or rug can be a starting point as you begin to build your collection. I have found that especially for young children, adding reading partners like a teddy bear makes the corner more intimate. You may also include a bean bag to enhance the coziness of the space.

Size vs. Variety
Instead of focusing on the number of books, keep in mind the special interests and preferences of each member of the family. Ask your children what they like to read, and try to stock up on their favourite subjects and authors. A small collection of well-loved and read books, thoughtfully gathered over time, is better than a large collection that remains in the shelves untouched.

Display & Storage
Of course, bookcases, shelves and magazine racks should be sturdy and well-built. Remember to place your young reader’s favourite books well within his reach. Look out for some whimsical, unusual storage ideas like a wagon, a basket, or wooden crates. There are no hard and fast rules in arranging books, but you could try grouping together books that have the same topics like animals, machines, or science topics. Another alternative is to put books of the same author together like Dr. Seuss, Eric Carle or Kevin Henkes.

Books and A Lot More
Just about anything goes in a family library. Fiction books from different genres (poetry, folktales, realistic fiction, etc.), a dictionary, an atlas, song books, magazines for parents and kids, newspapers, and even mail-order catalogues all have a place. Keep the ages and interests of family members in mind when selecting material, and get their suggestions. Make sure there is something for everyone at every reading level.

A Shelf of One’s Own
Children may want a place separate from the family library to keep books that have special meaning or value for them. By encouraging children to set aside their personal favorites, you are helping them express their affection for books, and showing them that you respect their reading.

Here are some tips for helping your children set up their own collections:
Find a special place for your child’s books. If your child’s room does not already have a bookshelf or bookcase, you can use a box, basket, or other sturdy container. Plastic stacking cubes work well and come in a variety of colors.

As often as possible, let your children choose the books they want to read and add to their collection. A book-buying trip to a yard sale or bookstore can be a fun alternative weekend family activity.

Give your children books or magazine subscriptions as gifts. And encourage them to give books as gifts to other family members.

For babies and young toddlers, choose sturdy books that can survive rough handling. Board books, for example, have thick pages that can be turned easily and wiped clean.

Display a few books with their covers facing out. An appealing cover might entice a youngster to pick up the book and take a peek inside.

Create a sticker or nameplate. It gives your child a sense of ownership. It makes him proud to own something and be responsible for it.

But beyond creating a space for reading, making time for reading is equally important to ensure that our children will love reading. Be involved. Do not wait for the right time because now is the time.

Where To Find Good Books:
Now that you’ve got a list of books that you think your child will enjoy, the next question is where can you get them? Top of mind answer: bookstores. However, as much as you would want to buy all the books that you want, it is just not possible for everyone. Sadly, books can be quite expensive.

If you would like to purchase books without putting so much dent to your wallet, you may go to yard sales, school book fairs, second hand bookstores and library sales. There are used bookstores that sell children’s picture books or novels for Rm5-7. The big chain of bookstores sometimes conduct regular warehouse sales. I have dug gold from hunting rare and treasured titles in the stack of books sold at a bargain.

You may also encourage your child and his/her friends to swap books they have read for books they haven’t. Or arrange a weekend book-swap among families from your child’s school or neighborhood. Book parties can also be organized.

Praising your reader at home will go a long way in firing up his/her interest. Examples of magic words that can go a long way are “Way To Go with this Book”, “You’re my Super Star Reader”, “You’re Catching On with the Difficult Words” and “Your Reading Voice is Exciting”.
Have fun setting up your library!

Credits to Chong Woan Rong, T3

Mum’s lover held over death of child

Saturday February 27, 2010

KUALA LUMPUR: A three-year-old child, believed to have been abused by her single mother’s companion, was pronounced dead upon arrival at the Kuala Kubu Baru Hospital last night.

Hulu Selangor police chief Supt Norel Azmi Affandi Yahya said the body of the victim, Syafia Humai¬rah Sahari, was brought to the Kuala Kubu Baru Hospital by the single mother’s companion and his accomplice, claiming that the child was involved in a road accident.

The 28-year-old man who brought the child’s body to the Emergency Ward at about 8.30pm, hurriedly left the hospital, apparently to make a police report.

“When the nurse wanted more information from the man, he fled the scene, claiming he was going to make a police report.

“At 11pm the hospital staff contacted the police, wanting to know if there was any report of an accident.

“But since there was none, the hospital inspected the body and found marks believed to have been caused due to abuse,” Supt Norel Azmi said yesterday.

He said initial investigations revealed that the child who had suffered injuries to her chin, stomach and below the ears, was believed to have died while on the way to the hospital.

The police later detained the man, a taxi driver, at 3am to facilitate investigations.

The single mother, who lives at Kampung Batu 30, Ulu Yam Lama, and the man are believed to have known each other for six years and have an 18-month-old child from their relationship.

He added that the mother, who fainted after hearing of her child’s death, was receiving
treatment at the Kuala Kubu Baru Hospital.

Meanwhile, according to a witness who refused to be named, the suspect had brought Syafia Humairah to a football field and while playing, the child suddenly started crying.

The witness added that upon hearing the child crying, the suspect, who was wearing football boots became angry and started stomping her in the presence of many people.

Those who witnessed the incident later rushed to the child’s aid and released her from the suspect’s clutches before putting her in the suspect’s taxi to be taken to hospital. — Bernama

Credits to Chong Woan Rong,T3

Video of smoking, swearing child horrifies Indonesia

By Agence France-Presse, Updated: 4/1/2010

A video posted on the Internet of a small boy smoking, swearing and making lewd sexual gestures has shocked Indonesia.

The short video appeared on YouTube over the weekend but was removed by the website on Wednesday for violating its terms of use, The Jakarta Globe daily reported.

It showed a boy aged about four puffing on a highly toxic clove cigarette, blowing smoke rings and swearing in an east Java dialect with the encouragement of adults, who can be heard laughing in the background.

Responding to questions from the adults, the child, called Sandy, said he wanted to be a thief when he grew up and spend his money on prostitutes.

Sitting on a tricycle, he also said his favourite thing in the world was "vaginas" and thrust his hips when asked to simulate intercourse.

Child protection officials told The Jakarta Globe that the video represented child abuse. The boy is believed to be from Malang, a town in east Java.

"There should be immediate psychological and medical treatment for the little boy as it will disturb his development. He cannot be like this," National Commission for Child Protection chairman Seto Mulyadi was quoted as saying.

A senior official from the women's empowerment and child protection ministry said an investigation team will soon meet the child's parents and local community leaders.

"We'll give a warning to the boy's parents and will cooperate with local community chiefs in order to prevent other kids in the surrounding neighbourhoods from engaging in this extreme behaviour," Wahyu Hartomo told AFP.

The team will also provide counselling to the child and closely monitor his psychological development, he said.

Credits to Chong Woan Rong

Playful way to teach autistic kids Hand movements can help stimulate the imagination of autistic children

Friday December 7, 2007


British creative arts therapist Dr Sue Jennings was recently in the state to share her expertise in incorporating creative arts in teaching children with special needs, abused children and stroke victims.

The pioneer in dramatherapy and playtherapy said non-verbal methods like art, dance, music and play, could provide a different therapeutic medium to help people with special needs, reaching areas that other methods could not.

“Hand movements during body massages that imitate elements like pouring rain, lighting, the sun and the rainbow could help stimulate the imagination of autistic children,” said the 69-year-old.

In her work, Dr Jennings also uses animal hand puppets to help autistic children sort out social and personal difficulties.

“The children relate better to the puppets. Eye contact becomes a non-issue. They can talk and whisper to them and play, feeling safer and more comfortable,” she explained.

Dr Jennings was speaking at a recent creative arts therapy workshop at the Caring Society Complex co-organised by the Bureau of Learning Difficulties (BOLD) and Disted-Stamford College.

The world renowned therapist and author was also in Malaysia to visit an orang asli village west of Gua Musang in the Kelantan rainforest.

She had spent two years living in the village with her three children, researching on the orang asli's unique way of life, culture and performing arts, for her doctoral studies in the mid-1970s.

“I was intrigued by their child rearing ways. Parents never hit their children there.

“Their creative activities like dances were part of healing processes. They dance to ward off illnesses and to keep their village strong,” she said, recalling how enriching the experience was for her and her children,

She said she was looking forward to seeing the midwife who had adopted her during her stay in the village after almost 20 years.

Retired from her hospital, clinic, private practice and university work since last year, Dr Jennings is now busy writing more books and conducting talks around the world.

“I discover new things everyday. The creativity and potential shown by people with disabilities are so intriguing,” she said, adding that she might return to Malaysia next year to work with the National Autism Society of Malaysia (NASOM).

“I am also planning to help start a creative arts therapy training programme in Penang. There are many possibilities. If things go well, Malaysia could be my second home after Romania,” she said.

Posted by Ong Si Li, T3

Early detection of handicapping conditions

Autism: Recognising The Signs in Young Children

Early diagnosis of autism is important if children are to achieve their full potential, explains Jennifer Humphries

Keywords: autism; autism spectrum disorders; diagnosis; assessment; community nurses

Autism is a developmental disorder affecting children from birth or the early months of life. It results in delay in, and deviance from, the normal patterns of development1. These occur in three areas of behaviour:

· Social relationships and interactions
· Language and communication.
· Activities and interests.

When problems occur in all these three spheres of development, and at a deeper level than the usual variations expected in ordinary children, the distinctive pattern of autism becomes evident. In the past there has been confusion over terminology, but experts now consider that children with the triad of impairments should come under the umbrella diagnosis of "autism spectrum disorders" 2,3, which should prompt further in-depth diagnosis. Gillberg2 suggests that the diagnosis of autism should specify additional features such as severity, cognitive level, clinical traits and associated medical conditions.

The incidence is hard to establish because of the problems of diagnosis but the National Autistic Society suggests a possible prevalence rate of almost 1 in 100 people in the UK for autistic spectrum disorders (91 per l0,000) 4.

Although autism is probably present from birth, or very soon after, its nature means that the specific disorders of developmental progression will not necessarily be apparent for many months or even years.

Relationships, communication and activities are immature in all young babies. It is only when they become more sophisticated that delays and deviations from the usual may be evident. Diagnosis is complicated by the variations found in the mental ability of children with autism. About two-thirds have additional learning difficulties and their unusual behaviour patterns may be ascribed to an overall developmental delay. Conversely, autism may be overlooked in children with average and above-average mental ability. Any odd behaviours or abnormalities in development, especially in very young children, may be dismissed as mild or transient.


The cause of autism remains unknown. The most likely hypothesis is damage to the brain, perhaps prenatally, though this has not been conclusively proved. The factors responsible may include:

· genetic or chromosomal abnormality
· viral agents
· metabolic disorders
· immune intolerance
· perinatal anoxia5.

These factors can result in other handicapping conditions, which explains why children with autism often have additional learning disabilities and some may have identified medical conditions such as fragile X syndrome, tuberous sclerosis and neurofibromatosis. However, this is not the full explanation as there are children who have damage to the brain as a result of these factors, but who do not have autism. There are also children diagnosed with autism in whom no cause is apparent, partly because the particular neurological impairment necessary for autism to occur has not yet been identified2. In a review, Gillberg 2 noted overwhelming evidence that autism has biological roots but found no single consistent explanation.

Genetic factors were important in some cases, perinatal stress in others, while in certain cases autism could have been produced by a combination of genetic and environmentally-induced brain damage2.

One model by Baron-Cohen and Bolton6 accounts for the uncertainty over the causes of autism by suggesting a final common pathway (Figure 1). This model shows how different causes, some of them unknown, can result in damage to areas of the brain responsible for the development of normal social function. communication and play.

Importance of early identification

As with any child with special needs, early identification is essential to allow interventions to be implemented. With autism, these need to be started before deviation and delay from the normal pattern of development has progressed too far6. Children with autism often display a characteristic need for sameness and structure. Their resistance to change can impede treatments because inappropriate behaviours have to be curtailed as well as more appropriate behaviours introduced. Mays and Gillon7 suggest that early intervention can improve communication skills and reduce out-of-control behaviours. Beck Williams, a nurse therapist working with children with autism, believes it is an advantage to know the child from a very young age and that it is possible to intervene at the start of a new behaviour which has the potential to become self-mutilating or dangerous8.

Early recognition of the condition also allows families to receive advice and support to help them adjust and respond to the child's difficulties.

Diagnosis of autism is rare before the age of two years and is frequently much later6. It requires comprehensive, specialist assessment, which means primary health care workers being alert to the features of the condition and making the appropriate referral. Attwood9 notes that autism can be diagnosed in children as young as 18 months but in practice this may be hard to achieve, partly because of the nature of the disorder and partly because of lack of knowledge. Unfortunately at present a considerable number of professionals involved with young children do not recognise autism10, although it is hoped that this situation will improve and cases will be referred to specialists at younger ages for early intervention6. Nurses and nursery nurses who work with babies and young children are in a prime position to recognise possible early signs that warrant investigation.

Since about two-thirds of children with autism have other learning disabilities as well, community nurses working with children with learning disabilities may be the first professionals to suspect autism. In children without additional learning difficulties, the health visitor may be the one to recognise developmental delays or deviations from the norms. Community paediatric nurses may also be key health workers in families whose children have experienced pre- and postnatal difficulties that may be associated with autism.

Parental concern

Children with autism vary according to individual personality and abilities and are affected by their environment. The early signs and symptoms are subtle and vague. Parents may recognise that their child is different from others of a similar age but be unable to articulate this difference. Listening to parents' concerns, no matter how nebulous or imprecise, is always important. "Be worried when the parents are worried"11. However, in many autism parents do not recognise anything untoward in their infant's development. Many people have little experience of the expected milestones of babies. Even those with other children will only have one or two others to compare their baby with, and most health professionals and child development books rightly advise parents not to compare children

Recognition of characteristics in early childhood

It is debatable whether autism is identifiable in the early months of life, although research indicates characteristics that may lead a health professional to suspect autism2,12,13. These babies are likely to benefit from further assessment.

Biographical accounts by parents often emphasise the "normality" of the autistic child as an infant14,15. Yet studies in which parents were asked if there were worries about the child's development in the early months of life suggest that many parents were concerned 12,13. Frith5 suggests that early concerns noted by parents of children with autism can be due to additional learning disabilities rather than to specific impairments associated with autism. In children with autism who have normal intellectual ability, abnormalities in development may occur (or be recognised) only after the first year.

However, there are indications in the usual developmental progress that could suggest autism. Wing16 describes two kinds of autistic infant, the placid, undemanding baby who rarely cries and the reverse, i.e. the screaming baby who is difficult to pacify. She notes that babies with autism may display other behaviours such as rocking, head banging and scratching or tapping at covers when in the pram or cot. They may develop a fascination for shiny or twinkling objects but have an apparent lack of interest in people, animals or traffic for example, when out in the pram. All these signs can, of course, be displayed by both ordinary children and children who have a learning disability unconnected to autism, so caution is needed before interpreting them as signs of autism.

Suggestive symptoms in early childhood

According to a study by Gillberg et al 12 it is possible to recognise autism in infancy. The symptoms most commonly reported in a study of 28 children were peculiarities of gaze, hearing and play.

Avoidance of eye contact is often thought to be a characteristic of children with autism. This feature is less important than the unusual quality of the gaze. Many infants do not appear to see people and so may not look people in the eye, but in the baby with autism the gaze tends to be brief and out of the corner of the eye7.

Peculiarities of hearing seem to be especially significant. Many children with autism have been suspected of being deaf at an early stage in their lives17. Very few actually have a hearing loss, though they may not respond to their name and appear to be unaffected by audible changes in the environment. Children with autism may seem to ignore even very loud noises that would be expected to startle most ordinary children. This may be to do with a generalised lack of interest in their surroundings9. It may be due to abnormalities in perception, since children with autism can appear to be especially sensitive to certain sounds 3,16. For example, a child with autism may develop a fascination for particular sounds such as that made by a friction-driven toy, or respond to the sound of a sweet being unwrapped from a considerable distance. Other sounds may appear to cause extreme distress, such as a police siren or a barking dog.

Social Development and Play
In young babies, play and social activity are closely connected and it is in this sphere of development that parents may note that their child is odd. Babies with autism may show a lack of interest in the types of play that most infants enjoy, such as those which involve social interaction with the parent.

The lack of sharing activity appears to be significant. Frith and Soares's study 13 of 173 responses from parents of children with autism indicate the lack of joint interest and activity displayed by their children in the first year. Babies with autism do not point out things of interest, do not take an active part in playing baby games and do not want to share in activities. These signs were not mentioned by the control group of parents of normally-developing children.

Early parental concerns about the developmental progress of their baby should always be heeded. If a mother expresses anxiety about her baby's social and emotional responses and perceptual abilities, the professional must be alert to the possibility of autism. Appropriate referral to specialists in normal and abnormal child development may mean that a diagnosis is reached sooner than has been typical in the past. A child development unit has the resources to assess a child in all aspects of development. While babies may display "autistic features", only a comprehensive diagnostic assessment can reveal whether they have autism or are merely displaying behaviour attributable to other difficulties18.


This is best done at a child development unit because the expertise of a variety of disciplines is required and a team approach has been found to result in more accurate diagnosis. Assessment of suspected autism entails the parents providing a review of the family history, the pregnancy and the child's behaviour and developmental progress. A physical examination is required to determine any underlying medical conditions contributing to deviations and/or delays in expected developmental progress.

Developmental assessment includes fine and gross motor skills, language, (reception, expression and verbalization), sensory perception, social and emotional development and play. The quality of development is an important feature of the assessment, hence the way skills are used are as important as their presence. For example, a child with autism may have acquired the ability to reproduce words, but not have developed an understanding of their meaning. Or a young child with autism may point to an object but in a non-social fashion rather than to direct another person's attention to it 19 .

Ideally, children should also be observed in their usual environment, at home or nursery. Rating scales may be useful as a screening instrument2,19 but are not considered appropriate as a diagnostic tool2.

The diagnosis of autism is unlikely to be made on the basis of one examination, especially if the child is very young. Close monitoring of progress and regular assessment are essential to enable a full picture to be built up. Regardless of whether a definite diagnosis of autism is reached, children and their parents can be offered help. Babies suspected of having a developmental disorder can receive services for their particular needs and have their progress monitored. Parents can be supported and taught ways to assist their child that are specific for each sphere of the baby's development.

Diagnosis is likely to involve consultation between the unit team, who may include a paediatrician, clinical psychologist, child psychiatrist, speech therapist, play therapist. nurse specialist and social worker. Their role is also to help families to provide appropriate interventions to help the child. These should be based on the unique needs of the individual and will involve assistance with play and social interactions, behaviour and communication. Aarons & Gittens10 recommend early placement in a nursery or playgroup to provide the child with valuable social experience and learning opportunities, and enable the child's difficulties to be clarified. They would like:

"Specialist nurseries to be available where young children with autistic features could attend, even part-time, for continuing assessment . . . expertise in autism could then be centralised in a district, and parents would have access to advice and support10 ."

Davies20 also advocates support for parents. Her study indicated that families of children with autism can be put under considerable strain without such facilities. She notes that the greatest stress appears to be experienced by parents of young children with autism and who have other dependent children.

There is no cure for autism. Children with autism become adults with autism and most with additional learning disabilities will require care and supervision all their lives. People at the other end of the spectrum, however, and with ordinary intellectual ability, usually become partially or fully independent as adults but require specialist help as children. Interventions are designed to assist people with autism to achieve their full potential at all stages of their lives and to support and help parents and carers to accomplish this.

Autism is a developmental disorder that results in a cluster of abnormal behaviours. Evidence shows that early intervention improves long-term function for the child. It can lead to help and support for parents in caring for their child. Recognition of autism is still occurring later than experts would ideally like. Health visitors and nurses who specialise in child health are in a key position to observe characteristics in young children that could be suggestive of autism.

Key points

* Autism is an organic disorder affecting several areas of a child's development.

* Autism is present from birth, or very soon after, but the nature of the disorder can mean that diagnosis is delayed for months or years.

* Early intervention can improve long-term function and help the families.

* Babies with autism may display characteristic features of gaze, hearing, social development and play.

* Nurses working with babies and young children are in a prime position to recognise these characteristics and refer the family for specialised assessment.

* Learning disabilities may or may not be present in children with autism.

* Always listen to the parents. They often suspect something is wrong even though they may not be able to be precise.


1. Baron-Cohen S. Debate and argument on modularity and development In autism: a reply to Burack. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry .1992 33(3): 623-629

2. Gillberg C. Autism and pervasive developmental disorders. . Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 1990 31(1): 99-119

3. Wing L. The definition and prevalence of autism: a review. European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 1993; 2(2): 61-74

4. The National Autistic Society Statistics Sheet. How many people have autistic-spectrum disorders? London: National Autistic Society 1997

5. Frith U. Autism: Explaining the Enigma. Oxford: Blackwell. 1989

6. Baron-Cohen S, Bolton P. Autism: The Facts. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993

7. Mays RM. Gillon JE. Autism in young children: an update Journal of Paediatric Health Care 1993: 7(1): 17-23

8. Williams B. Autism. Help for the family. Nursing Times1991: 87(34): 61-63

9. Attwood T. Unusual behaviours associated with autism. Health Visitor 1993; 66(11): 402-403.

10. Aarons M, Gittens T. The Handbook of Autism: A Guide for Parents and Professionals. London: Routledge. 1992

11. Hall DMB, Hill P. Shy, withdrawn or autistic? British Medical Journal 1991; 302: 125-126

12. Gillberg C, Ehlers S, Shaumann H et al. Autism under age 3 years: a clinical study of 28 cases referred for autistic symptoms in infancy. Journal of Child Psychology 1990: 31(6): 921-934

13. Frith U, Soares I. Research into earliest detectable signs of autism: what the parents say. Communication 1993: 27(3): 17-18

14. Lovell A. In a Summer Garment. London: Secker & Warburg, 1978

15. Park CC. The Siege (2nd edn). Boston Mass: Atlantic-Little Brown. 1987

16. Wing L. Autistic Children (2nd edn). London: Constable. 1980

17. Frith U. Baron-Cohen S. Perception in autistic children. In: Cohen DJ. Donnellen AM (eds). Handbook of Autism and Pervasive Development Disorders. New York: Wiley, 1987. pp 85-102

18. Wimpory D. Autism. Breaking through the barriers. Nursing Times 1991; 87(34): 58-61

19. Baron-Cohen S. Allen J. Gillberg C. Can autism be detected at 18 months? The needle, the haystack and the CHAT. British Journal of Psychiatry 1992:161: 839-843

20. Davies J. The role of the specialist for families with autistic children. Nursing Standard 1996: 11(3) 36-40

Jennifer Humphries RN RM RHV BSc MA
Senior Lecturer, Department of Primary and Community Nursing, University of Central Lancashire, Preston

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Professional Care of Mother and Child.
It is not for reproduction without permission.

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Posted by Ong Si Li, T3

How Children Learn that the Earth Isn’t Flat

A classic study of childhood learning suggests true understanding comes from letting go of established preconceptions.

Imagine the revelations we all once absorbed: humans are descended from apes, numbers can be usefully replaced by letters to solve problems and the Earth is (near-enough) a sphere which rotates around the sun. Despite their momentous importance for our understanding of everything around us, these facts can seem relatively trivial now, just as they were all in a day's work when we learnt them back in school.

However obvious these ideas might seem now, there was once a time when we just didn't get it, a time when maths was just numbers, humans were a species apart and the Earth was flat. How children revise their understanding of the world is one of the most fascinating areas of child psychology. But it is not just relevant to children; we all have to take on new concepts from time-to-time - even though they may not be as profound as the origin of the species.

It's tempting to think that learning is largely about memory - especially since in the bad old days of education learning was largely accomplished by rote. Of course fully appreciating complex ideas is about more than just memory, it's about understanding. But what mental processes take us from mere rote learning to genuine understanding?

A classic child psychology study carried out by Professors Stella Vosniadou and William Brewer provides a central insight into how we reach genuine understanding. They used a cognitive psychological theory called 'mental models' which suggests we create, and then test, mental models of the way the world works in order to build up our understanding. This theory implies there might be a series of intermediate points where we have some grasp of a concept, but it isn't yet complete. It's these intermediate mental models that Vosniadou and Brewer wanted to look at for evidence of understanding in progress.

What shape is the Earth?

For their study Vosniadou and Brewer (1991) interviewed sixty children who were between 6 and 11-years-old. Each was asked 48 questions, starting with the relatively innocuous: "What shape is the Earth?", and then moving on to more probing questions designed to reveal the mental model of the Earth they were using.

While most of the children started off well by representing the Earth as a circle, it soon became clear to the researchers that children had all kinds of different mental models. When asked what would happen if you kept walking and walking for ages and ages, many replied that you would fall off, which was surprising given that they thought the Earth was a sphere. Some even said you would fall off onto another planet. Others said that while the Earth was round we live on a flat surface inside it.

At first the answers seemed rather haphazard and inconsistent, as though children were just making them up. But then, with further questioning, a clear pattern of responses began to emerge (brackets contain the number of children displaying this mental model):

  • Rectangular Earth: thought the Earth was a flat rectangle which you could fall off (1/60).
  • Disc Earth: thought the Earth was a flat disc which you could fall off (1/60).
  • Dual Earth: thought that one 'Earth' is flat which we are standing on and there is another 'Earth' in the sky that is round. Their answers revealed they saw the planet as flat when asked about 'the ground', but round when asked about 'the Earth' (8/60).
  • Hollow sphere: thought we live inside the Earth on a flat area (12/60).
  • Flattened sphere: thought that the Earth was a flattened sphere so that there were areas on the top (and the bottom) where people could live (4/60).
  • Sphere: the amount of children demonstrating the conventional view steadily increased across the age ranges examined (23/60).
  • Mixed models: the rest of the children either did not give consistent answers or models could not be constructed for them (11/60).

The fact that four-fifths of the children could be fitted into clearly defined categories shows how we are likely to construct the same types of mental models as each other, both accurate and inaccurate.

Understanding in progress

These results show the mind working to come to terms with a brand new concept that is fundamentally alien to the senses. Our everyday experience suggests the Earth must be flat, otherwise, as gravity pulls us down, we'd slide off it. This is our first 'mental model' of the Earth. Then we are taught the Earth is approximately spherical and we try to update our original model but, it appears, for a period we get stuck in between.

It's these intermediate mental models that point to how we try to make sense of new concepts by first trying to integrate them into our current understanding in some way. The hollow sphere and the dual Earth models that children adopted are two examples of this. Both are ways of trying to hold both the flat Earth and spherical Earth models at the same time.

What was holding back the children's learning was their presupposition, coming from everyday experience, that the Earth is flat. Until they let go of this old way of looking at the Earth, they can't fully embrace a new view; they can only create an ugly, if occasionally ingenious, compromise. Established presuppositions from personal experience are powerful factors which are difficult to let go of, even when contradictory evidence is staring us right in the face. Sometimes real understanding is less about learning new concepts than letting go of old ones.


Vosniadou, S., & Brewer, W. F. (1992). Mental Models of the Earth: A Study of Conceptual Change in Childhood. Cognitive Psychology, 24(4), 535-85.

Original article from here *click*

6 Types of Play: How We Learn to Work Together

Play is a serious business. The pioneering developmental psychologist Lev Vygotsky thought that, in the preschool years, play is the leading source of development.

Through play children learn and practice many basic social skills. They develop a sense of self, learn to interact with other children, how to make friends, how to lie and how to role-play.

The classic study of how play develops in children was carried out by Mildred Parten in the late 1920s at the Institute of Child Development in Minnesota. She closely observed children between the ages of 2 and 5 years and categorised their play into six types.

Parten collected data by systematically sampling the children's behaviour. She observed them for pre-arranged 1 minute periods which were varied systematically (Parten, 1933).

The thing to notice is that the first four categories of play don't involve much interaction with others, while the last two do. While children shift between the types of play, what Parten noticed was that as they grew up, children participated less in the first four types and more in the last two - those which involved greater interaction.

  1. Unoccupied play: the child is relatively stationary and appears to be performing random movements with no apparent purpose. A relatively infrequent style of play.
  2. Solitary play: the child is are completely engrossed in playing and does not seem to notice other children. Most often seen in children between 2 and 3 years-old.
  3. Onlooker play: child takes an interest in other children's play but does not join in. May ask questions or just talk to other children, but the main activity is simply to watch.
  4. Parallel play: the child mimics other children's play but doesn't actively engage with them. For example they may use the same toy.
  5. Associative play: now more interested in each other than the toys they are using. This is the first category that involves strong social interaction between the children while they play.
  6. Cooperative play: some organisation enters children's play, for example the playing has some goal and children often adopt roles and act as a group.

Unlike Jean Piaget who saw children's play in primarily cognitive developmental terms, Parten emphasised the idea that learning to play is learning how to relate to others.


Parten, M. (1933). Social play among preschool children. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 28, 136-147.

Original article from here *click*

Where does the bread go?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The girl in the window

PLANT CITY — The family had lived in the rundown rental house for almost three years when someone first saw a child's face in the window.

A little girl, pale, with dark eyes, lifted a dirty blanket above the broken glass and peered out, one neighbor remembered.

Everyone knew a woman lived in the house with her boyfriend and two adult sons. But they had never seen a child there, had never noticed anyone playing in the overgrown yard.

The girl looked young, 5 or 6, and thin. Too thin. Her cheeks seemed sunken; her eyes were lost.

The child stared into the square of sunlight, then slipped away.

Months went by. The face never reappeared.

Just before noon on July 13, 2005, a Plant City police car pulled up outside that shattered window. Two officers went into the house — and one stumbled back out.

Clutching his stomach, the rookie retched in the weeds.

Plant City Detective Mark Holste had been on the force for 18 years when he and his young partner were sent to the house on Old Sydney Road to stand by during a child abuse investigation. Someone had finally called the police.

They found a car parked outside. The driver's door was open and a woman was slumped over in her seat, sobbing. She was an investigator for the Florida Department of Children and Families.

"Unbelievable," she told Holste. "The worst I've ever seen."

The police officers walked through the front door, into a cramped living room.

"I've been in rooms with bodies rotting there for a week and it never stunk that bad," Holste said later. "There's just no way to describe it. Urine and feces — dog, cat and human excrement — smeared on the walls, mashed into the carpet. Everything dank and rotting."

Tattered curtains, yellow with cigarette smoke, dangling from bent metal rods. Cardboard and old comforters stuffed into broken, grimy windows. Trash blanketing the stained couch, the sticky counters.

The floor, walls, even the ceiling seemed to sway beneath legions of scuttling roaches.

"It sounded like you were walking on eggshells. You couldn't take a step without crunching German cockroaches," the detective said. "They were in the lights, in the furniture. Even inside the freezer. The freezer!"

While Holste looked around, a stout woman in a faded housecoat demanded to know what was going on. Yes, she lived there. Yes, those were her two sons in the living room. Her daughter? Well, yes, she had a daughter . . .

The detective strode past her, down a narrow hall. He turned the handle on a door, which opened into a space the size of a walk-in closet. He squinted in the dark.

At his feet, something stirred.

First he saw the girl's eyes: dark and wide, unfocused, unblinking. She wasn't looking at him so much as through him.

She lay on a torn, moldy mattress on the floor. She was curled on her side, long legs tucked into her emaciated chest. Her ribs and collarbone jutted out; one skinny arm was slung over her face; her black hair was matted, crawling with lice. Insect bites, rashes and sores pocked her skin. Though she looked old enough to be in school, she was naked — except for a swollen diaper.

"The pile of dirty diapers in that room must have been 4 feet high," the detective said. "The glass in the window had been broken, and that child was just lying there, surrounded by her own excrement and bugs."

When he bent to lift her, she yelped like a lamb. "It felt like I was picking up a baby," Holste said. "I put her over my shoulder, and that diaper started leaking down my leg."

The girl didn't struggle. Holste asked, What's your name, honey? The girl didn't seem to hear.

He searched for clothes to dress her, but found only balled-up laundry, flecked with feces. He looked for a toy, a doll, a stuffed animal. "But the only ones I found were covered in maggots and roaches."

Choking back rage, he approached the mother. How could you let this happen?

"The mother's statement was: 'I'm doing the best I can,' " the detective said. "I told her, 'The best you can sucks!' "

He wanted to arrest the woman right then, but when he called his boss he was told to let DCF do its own investigation.

So the detective carried the girl down the dim hall, past her brothers, past her mother in the doorway, who was shrieking, "Don't take my baby!" He buckled the child into the state investigator's car. The investigator agreed: They had to get the girl out of there.

"Radio ahead to Tampa General," the detective remembers telling his partner. "If this child doesn't get to a hospital, she's not going to make it."

• • •

Her name, her mother had said, was Danielle. She was almost 7 years old.

She weighed 46 pounds. She was malnourished and anemic. In the pediatric intensive care unit they tried to feed the girl, but she couldn't chew or swallow solid food. So they put her on an IV and let her drink from a bottle.

Aides bathed her, scrubbed the sores on her face, trimmed her torn fingernails. They had to cut her tangled hair before they could comb out the lice.

Her caseworker determined that she had never been to school, never seen a doctor. She didn't know how to hold a doll, didn't understand peek-a-boo. "Due to the severe neglect," a doctor would write, "the child will be disabled for the rest of her life."

Hunched in an oversized crib, Danielle curled in on herself like a potato bug, then writhed angrily, kicking and thrashing. To calm herself, she batted at her toes and sucked her fists. "Like an infant," one doctor wrote.

She wouldn't make eye contact. She didn't react to heat or cold — or pain. The insertion of an IV needle elicited no reaction. She never cried. With a nurse holding her hands, she could stand and walk sideways on her toes, like a crab. She couldn't talk, didn't know how to nod yes or no. Once in a while she grunted.

She couldn't tell anyone what had happened, what was wrong, what hurt.

Dr. Kathleen Armstrong, director of pediatric psychology at the University of South Florida medical school, was the first psychologist to examine Danielle. She said medical tests, brain scans, and vision, hearing and genetics checks found nothing wrong with the child. She wasn't deaf, wasn't autistic, had no physical ailments such as cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy.

The doctors and social workers had no way of knowing all that had happened to Danielle. But the scene at the house, along with Danielle's almost comatose condition, led them to believe she had never been cared for beyond basic sustenance. Hard as it was to imagine, they doubted she had ever been taken out in the sun, sung to sleep, even hugged or held. She was fragile and beautiful, but whatever makes a person human seemed somehow missing.

Armstrong called the girl's condition "environmental autism." Danielle had been deprived of interaction for so long, the doctor believed, that she had withdrawn into herself.

The most extraordinary thing about Danielle, Armstrong said, was her lack of engagement with people, with anything. "There was no light in her eye, no response or recognition. . . . We saw a little girl who didn't even respond to hugs or affection. Even a child with the most severe autism responds to those."

Danielle's was "the most outrageous case of neglect I've ever seen."

The authorities had discovered the rarest and most pitiable of creatures: a feral child.

The term is not a diagnosis. It comes from historic accounts — some fictional, some true — of children raised by animals and therefore not exposed to human nurturing. Wolf boys and bird girls, Tarzan, Mowgli from The Jungle Book.

It's said that during the Holy Roman Empire, Frederick II gave a group of infants to some nuns. He told them to take care of the children but never to speak to them. He believed the babies would eventually reveal the true language of God. Instead, they died from the lack of interaction.

Then there was the Wild Boy of Aveyron, who wandered out of the woods near Paris in 1800, naked and grunting. He was about 12. A teacher took him in and named him Victor. He tried to socialize the child, teach him to talk. But after several years, he gave up on the teen and asked the housekeeper to care for him.

"In the first five years of life, 85 percent of the brain is developed," said Armstrong, the psychologist who examined Danielle. "Those early relationships, more than anything else, help wire the brain and provide children with the experience to trust, to develop language, to communicate. They need that system to relate to the world."

The importance of nurturing has been shown again and again. In the 1960s, psychologist Harry Harlow put groups of infant rhesus monkeys in a room with two artificial mothers. One, made of wire, dispensed food. The other, of terrycloth, extended cradled arms. Though they were starving, the baby monkeys all climbed into the warm cloth arms.

"Primates need comfort even more than they need food," Armstrong said.

The most recent case of a feral child was in 1970, in California. A girl whom therapists came to call Genie had been strapped to a potty chair until she was 13. Like the Wild Boy, Genie was studied in hospitals and laboratories. She was in her 20s when doctors realized she'd never talk, never be able to take care of herself. She ended up in foster care, closed off from the world, utterly dependent.

Danielle's case — which unfolded out of the public spotlight, without a word in the media — raised disturbing questions for everyone trying to help her. How could this have happened? What kind of mother would sit by year after year while her daughter languished in her own filth, starving and crawling with bugs?

And why hadn't someone intervened? The neighbors, the authorities — where had they been?

"It's mind-boggling that in the 21st century we can still have a child who's just left in a room like a gerbil," said Tracy Sheehan, Danielle's guardian in the legal system and now a circuit court judge. "No food. No one talking to her or reading her a story. She can't even use her hands. How could this child be so invisible?"

But the most pressing questions were about her future.

When Danielle was discovered, she was younger by six years than the Wild Boy or Genie, giving hope that she might yet be teachable. Many of her caregivers had high hopes they could make her whole.

Danielle had probably missed the chance to learn speech, but maybe she could come to understand language, to communicate in other ways.

Still, doctors had only the most modest ambitions for her.

"My hope was that she would be able to sleep through the night, to be out of diapers and to feed herself," Armstrong said. If things went really well, she said, Danielle would end up "in a nice nursing home."

Danielle spent six weeks at Tampa General before she was well enough to leave. But where could she go? Not home; Judge Martha Cook, who oversaw her dependency hearing, ordered that Danielle be placed in foster care and that her mother not be allowed to call or visit her. The mother was being investigated on criminal child abuse charges.

"That child, she broke my heart," Cook said later. "We were so distraught over her condition, we agonized over what to do."

Eventually, Danielle was placed in a group home in Land O'Lakes. She had a bed with sheets and a pillow, clothes and food, and someone at least to change her diapers.

In October 2005, a couple of weeks after she turned 7, Danielle started school for the first time. She was placed in a special ed class at Sanders Elementary.

"Her behavior was different than any child I'd ever seen," said Kevin O'Keefe, Danielle's first teacher. "If you put food anywhere near her, she'd grab it" and mouth it like a baby, he said. "She had a lot of episodes of great agitation, yelling, flailing her arms, rolling into a fetal position. She'd curl up in a closet, just to be away from everyone. She didn't know how to climb a slide or swing on a swing. She didn't want to be touched."

It took her a year just to become consolable, he said.

By Thanksgiving 2006 — a year and a half after Danielle had gone into foster care — her caseworker was thinking about finding her a permanent home.

A nursing home, group home or medical foster care facility could take care of Danielle. But she needed more.

"In my entire career with the child welfare system, I don't ever remember a child like Danielle," said Luanne Panacek, executive director of the Children's Board of Hillsborough County. "It makes you think about what does quality of life mean? What's the best we can hope for her? After all she's been through, is it just being safe?"

That fall, Panacek decided to include Danielle in the Heart Gallery — a set of portraits depicting children available for adoption. The Children's Board displays the pictures in malls and on the Internet in hopes that people will fall in love with the children and take them home.

In Hillsborough alone, 600 kids are available for adoption. Who, Panacek wondered, would choose an 8-year-old who was still in diapers, who didn't know her own name and might not ever speak or let you hug her?

The day Danielle was supposed to have her picture taken for the Heart Gallery, she showed up with red Kool-Aid dribbled down her new blouse. She hadn't yet mastered a sippy cup.

Garet White, Danielle's care manager, scrubbed the girl's shirt and washed her face. She brushed Danielle's bangs from her forehead and begged the photographer to please be patient.

White stepped behind the photographer and waved at Danielle. She put her thumbs in her ears and wiggled her hands, stuck out her tongue and rolled her eyes. Danielle didn't even blink.

White was about to give up when she heard a sound she'd never heard from Danielle. The child's eyes were still dull, apparently unseeing. But her mouth was open. She looked like she was trying to laugh.

Teenagers tore through the arcade, firing fake rifles. Sweaty boys hunched over air hockey tables. Girls squealed as they stomped on blinking squares.

Bernie and Diane Lierow remember standing silently inside GameWorks in Tampa, overwhelmed. They had driven three hours from their home in Fort Myers Beach, hoping to meet a child at this foster care event.

But all these kids seemed too wild, too big and, well, too worldly.

Bernie, 48, remodels houses. Diane, 45, cleans homes. They have four grown sons from previous marriages and one together. Diane couldn't have any more children, and Bernie had always wanted a daughter. So last year, when William was 9, they decided to adopt.

Their new daughter would have to be younger than William, they told foster workers. But she would have to be potty-trained and able to feed herself. They didn't want a child who might hurt their son, or who was profoundly disabled and unable to take care of herself.

On the Internet they had found a girl in Texas, another in Georgia. Each time they were told, "That one is dangerous. She can't be with other children."

That's why they were at this Heart Gallery gathering, scanning the crowd.

Bernie's head ached from all the jangling games; Diane's stomach hurt, seeing all the abandoned kids; and William was tired of shooting aliens.

Diane stepped out of the chaos, into an alcove beneath the stairs. That was when she saw it. A little girl's face on a flier, pale with sunken cheeks and dark hair chopped too short. Her brown eyes seemed to be searching for something.

Diane called Bernie over. He saw the same thing she did. "She just looked like she needed us."

Bernie and Diane are humble, unpretentious people who would rather picnic on their deck than eat out. They go to work, go to church, visit with their neighbors, walk their dogs. They don't travel or pursue exotic interests; a vacation for them is hanging out at home with the family. Shy and soft-spoken, they're both slow to anger and, they say, seldom argue.

They had everything they ever wanted, they said. Except for a daughter.

But the more they asked about Danielle, the more they didn't want to know.

She was 8, but functioned as a 2-year-old. She had been left alone in a dank room, ignored for most of her life.

No, she wasn't there at the video arcade; she was in a group home. She wore diapers, couldn't feed herself, couldn't talk. After more than a year in school, she still wouldn't make eye contact or play with other kids.

No one knew, really, what was wrong with her, or what she might be capable of.

"She was everything we didn't want," Bernie said.

But they couldn't forget those aching eyes.

When they met Danielle at her school, she was drooling. Her tongue hung from her mouth. Her head, which seemed too big for her thin neck, lolled side to side.

She looked at them for an instant, then loped away across the special ed classroom. She rolled onto her back, rocked for a while, then batted at her toes.

Diane walked over and spoke to her softly. Danielle didn't seem to notice. But when Bernie bent down, Danielle turned toward him and her eyes seemed to focus.

He held out his hand. She let him pull her to her feet. Danielle's teacher, Kevin O'Keefe, was amazed; he hadn't seen her warm up to anyone so quickly.

Bernie led Danielle to the playground, she pulling sideways and prancing on her tiptoes. She squinted in the sunlight but let him push her gently on the swing. When it was time for them to part, Bernie swore he saw Danielle wave.

That night, he had a dream. Two giant hands slid through his bedroom ceiling, the fingers laced together. Danielle was swinging on those hands, her dark eyes wide, thin arms reaching for him.

Everyone told them not to do it, neighbors, co-workers, friends. Everyone said they didn't know what they were getting into.

So what if Danielle is not everything we hoped for? Bernie and Diane answered. You can't pre-order your own kids. You take what God gives you.

They brought her home on Easter weekend 2007. It was supposed to be a rebirth, of sorts — a baptism into their family.

"It was a disaster," Bernie said.

They gave her a doll; she bit off its hands. They took her to the beach; she screamed and wouldn't put her feet in the sand. Back at her new home, she tore from room to room, her swim diaper spewing streams across the carpet.

She couldn't peel the wrapper from a chocolate egg, so she ate the shiny paper too. She couldn't sit still to watch TV or look at a book. She couldn't hold a crayon. When they tried to brush her teeth or comb her hair, she kicked and thrashed. She wouldn't lie in a bed, wouldn't go to sleep, just rolled on her back, side to side, for hours.

All night she kept popping up, creeping sideways on her toes into the kitchen. She would pull out the frozen food drawer and stand on the bags of vegetables so she could see into the refrigerator.

"She wouldn't take anything," Bernie said. "I guess she wanted to make sure the food was still there."

When Bernie tried to guide her back to bed, Danielle railed against him and bit her own hands.

In time, Danielle's new family learned what worked and what didn't. Her foster family had been giving her anti-psychotic drugs to mitigate her temper tantrums and help her sleep. When Bernie and Diane weaned her off the medication, she stopped drooling and started holding up her head. She let Bernie brush her teeth.

Bernie and Diane already thought of Danielle as their daughter, but legally she wasn't. Danielle's birth mother did not want to give her up even though she had been charged with child abuse and faced 20 years in prison. So prosecutors offered a deal: If she waived her parental rights, they wouldn't send her to jail.

She took the plea. She was given two years of house arrest, plus probation. And 100 hours of community service.

In October 2007, Bernie and Diane officially adopted Danielle. They call her Dani.

"Okay, let's put your shoes on. Do you need to go potty again?" Diane asks.

It's an overcast Monday morning in spring 2008 and Dani is late for school. Again. She keeps flitting around the living room, ducking behind chairs and sofas, pulling at her shorts.

After a year with her new family, Dani scarcely resembles the girl in the Heart Gallery photo. She has grown a foot and her weight has doubled.

All those years she was kept inside, her hair was as dark as the dirty room she lived in. But since she started going to the beach and swimming in their backyard pool, Dani's shoulder-length hair has turned a golden blond. She still shrieks when anyone tries to brush it.

The changes in her behavior are subtle, but Bernie and Diane see progress. They give an example: When Dani feels overwhelmed she retreats to her room, rolls onto her back, pulls one sock toward the end of her toes and bats it. For hours. Bernie and Diane tell her to stop.

Now, when Dani hears them coming, she peels off her sock and throws it into the closet to hide it.

She's learning right from wrong, they say. And she seems upset when she knows she has disappointed them. As if she cares how they feel.

Bernie and Diane were told to put Dani in school with profoundly disabled children, but they insisted on different classes because they believe she can do more. They take her to occupational and physical therapy, to church and the mall and the grocery store. They have her in speech classes and horseback riding lessons.

Once, when Dani was trying to climb onto her horse, the mother of a boy in the therapeutic class turned to Diane.

"You're so lucky," Diane remembers the woman saying.

"Lucky?" Diane asked.

The woman nodded. "I know my son will never stand on his own, will never be able to climb onto a horse. You have no idea what your daughter might be able to do."

Diane finds hope in that idea. She counts small steps to convince herself things are slowly improving. So what if Dani steals food off other people's trays at McDonald's? At least she can feed herself chicken nuggets now. So what if she already has been to the bathroom four times this morning? She's finally out of diapers.

It took months, but they taught her to hold a stuffed teddy on the toilet so she wouldn't be scared to be alone in the bathroom. They bribed her with M&M's.

"Dani, sit down and try to use the potty," Diane coaxes. "Pull down your shorts. That's a good girl."

Every weekday, for half an hour, speech therapist Leslie Goldenberg tries to teach Dani to talk. She sits her in front of a mirror at a Bonita Springs elementary school and shows her how to purse her lips to make puffing sounds.

"Puh-puh-puh," says the teacher. "Here, feel my mouth." She brings Dani's fingers to her lips, so she can feel the air.

Dani nods. She knows how to nod now. Goldenberg puffs again.

Leaning close to the mirror, Dani purses her lips, opens and closes them. No sound comes out. She can imitate the movement, but doesn't know she has to blow out air to make the noise.

She bends closer, scowls at her reflection. Her lips open and close again, then she leaps up and runs across the room. She grabs a Koosh ball and bounces it rapidly.

She's lost inside herself. Again.

But in many ways, Dani already has surpassed the teacher's expectations, and not just in terms of speech. She seems to be learning to listen, and she understands simple commands. She pulls at her pants to show she needs to go to the bathroom, taps a juice box when she wants more. She can sit at a table for five-minute stretches, and she's starting to scoop applesauce with a spoon. She's down to just a few temper tantrums a month. She is learning to push buttons on a speaking board, to use symbols to show when she wants a book or when she's angry. She's learning it's okay to be angry: You can deal with those feelings without biting your own hands.

"I'd like her to at least be able to master a sound board, so she can communicate her choices even if she never finds her voice," Goldenberg says. "I think she understands most of what we say. It's just that she doesn't always know how to — or want to — react."

Dani's teacher and family have heard her say only a few words, and all of them seemed accidental. Once she blurted "baaa," startling Goldenberg to tears. It was the first letter sound she had ever made.

She seems to talk most often when William is tickling her, as if something from her subconscious seeps out when she's too distracted to shut it off. Her brother has heard her say, "Stop!" and "No!" He thought he even heard her say his name.

Having a brother just one year older is invaluable for Dani's development, her teacher says. She has someone to practice language with, someone who will listen. "Even deaf infants will coo," Goldenberg said. "But if no one responds, they stop."

William says Dani frightened him at first. "She did weird things." But he always wanted someone to play with. He doesn't care that she can't ride bikes with him or play Monopoly. "I drive her around in my Jeep and she honks the horn," he says. "She's learning to match up cards and stuff."

He couldn't believe she had never walked a dog or licked an ice cream cone. He taught her how to play peek-a-boo, helped her squish Play-Doh through her fingers. He showed her it was safe to walk on sand and fun to blow bubbles and okay to cry; when you hurt, someone comes. He taught her how to open a present. How to pick up tater tots and dunk them into a mountain of ketchup.

William was used to living like an only child, but since Dani has moved in, she gets most of their parents' attention. "She needs them more than me," he says simply.

He gave her his old toys, his "kid movies," his board books. He even moved out of his bedroom so she could sleep upstairs. His parents painted his old walls pink and filled the closet with cotton-candy dresses.

They moved a daybed into the laundry room for William, squeezed it between the washing machine and Dani's rocking horse. Each night, the 10-year-old boy cuddles up with a walkie-talkie because "it's scary down here, all alone."

After a few minutes, while his parents are trying to get Dani to bed, William always sneaks into the living room and folds himself into the love seat.

He trades his walkie-talkie for a small stuffed Dalmatian and calls down the hall, "Good night, Mom and Dad. Good night, Dani."

Some day, he's sure, she will answer.

Even now, Dani won't sleep in a bed.

Bernie bought her a new trundle so she can slide out the bottom bunk and be at floor level. Diane found pink Hello Kitty sheets and a stuffed glow worm so Dani will never again be alone in the dark.

"You got your wormie? You ready to go to sleep?" Bernie asks, bending to pick up his daughter. She's turning slow circles beneath the window, holding her worm by his tail. Bernie lifts her to the glass and shows her the sun, slipping behind the neighbor's house.

He hopes, one day, she might be able to call him "Daddy," to get married or at least live on her own. But if that doesn't happen, he says, "That's okay too. For me, it's all about getting the kisses and the hugs."

For now, Bernie and Diane are content to give Dani what she never had before: comfort and stability, attention and affection. A trundle, a glow worm.

Now Bernie tips Dani into bed, smooths her golden hair across the pillow. "Night-night," he says, kissing her forehead.

"Good night, honey," Diane calls from the doorway.

Bernie lowers the shade. As he walks past Dani, she reaches out and grabs his ankles.

She's out there somewhere, looming over Danielle's story like a ghost. To Bernie and Diane, Danielle's birth mother is a cipher, almost never spoken of. The less said, the better. As far as they are concerned Danielle was born the day they found her. And yet this unimaginable woman is out there somewhere, most likely still on probation, permanently unburdened of her daughter, and thinking — what? What can she possibly say? Nothing. Not a thing. But none of this makes any sense without her.

Michelle Crockett lives in a mobile home in Plant City with her two 20-something sons, three cats and a closet full of kittens. The trailer is just down the road from the little house where she lived with Danielle.

On a steamy afternoon a few weeks ago, Michelle opens the door wearing a long T-shirt. When she sees two strangers, she ducks inside and pulls on a housecoat. She's tall and stout, with broad shoulders and the sallow skin of a smoker. She looks tired, older than her 51 years.

"My daughter?" she asks. "You want to talk about my daughter?" Her voice catches. Tears pool in her glasses.

The inside of the trailer is modest but clean: dishes drying on the counter, silk flowers on the table. Sitting in her kitchen, chain-smoking 305s, she starts at the end: the day the detective took Danielle.

"Part of me died that day," she says.

Michelle says she was a student at the University of Tampa when she met a man named Bernie at a bar. It was 1976. He was a Vietnam vet, 10 years her senior. They got married and moved to Las Vegas, where he drove a taxi.

Right away they had two sons, Bernard and Grant. The younger boy wasn't potty-trained until he was 4, didn't talk until he was 5. "He was sort of slow," Michelle says. In school, they put him in special ed.

Her sons were teenagers when her husband got sick. Agent Orange, the doctors said. When he died in August 1997, Michelle filed for bankruptcy.

Six months later, she met a man in a casino. He was in Vegas on business. She went back to his hotel room with him.

"His name was Ron," she says. She shakes her head. "No, it was Bob. I think it was Bob."

For hours Michelle Crockett spins out her story, tapping ashes into a plastic ashtray. Everything she says sounds like a plea, but for what? Understanding? Sympathy? She doesn't apologize. Far from it. She feels wronged.

Danielle, she says, was born in a hospital in Las Vegas, a healthy baby who weighed 7 pounds, 6 ounces. Her Apgar score measuring her health was a 9, nearly perfect.

"She screamed a lot," Michelle says. "I just thought she was spoiled."

When Danielle was 18 months old, Michelle's mobile home burned down, so she loaded her two sons and baby daughter onto a Greyhound bus and headed to Florida, to bunk with a cousin.

They lost their suitcases along the way, she says. The cousin couldn't take the kids. After a week, Michelle moved into a Brandon apartment with no furniture, no clothes, no dishes. She got hired as a cashier at Publix. But it was okay: "The boys were with her," she says. She says she has the paperwork to prove it.

She goes to the boys' bathroom, returns with a box full of documents and hands it over.

The earliest documents are from Feb. 11, 2002. That was when someone called the child abuse hotline on her. The caller reported that a child, about 3, was "left unattended for days with a retarded older brother, never seen wearing anything but a diaper."

This is Michelle's proof that her sons were watching Danielle.

The caller continued:

"The home is filthy. There are clothes everywhere. There are feces on the child's seat and the counter is covered with trash."

It's not clear what investigators found at the house, but they left Danielle with her mother that day.

Nine months later, another call to authorities. A person who knew Michelle from the Moose Lodge said she was always there playing bingo with her new boyfriend, leaving her children alone overnight.

"Not fit to be a mother," the caller said.

The hotline operator took these notes: The 4-year-old girl "is still wearing a diaper and drinking from a baby bottle. On-going situation, worse since last August. Mom leaves Grant and Danielle at home for several days in a row while she goes to work and spends the night with a new paramour. Danielle . . . is never seen outside the home."

Again the child abuse investigators went out. They offered Michelle free day care for Danielle. She refused. And they left Danielle there.

Why? Didn't they worry about two separate calls to the hotline, months apart, citing the same concerns?

"It's not automatic that because the home is dirty we'd remove the child," said Nick Cox, regional director of the Florida Department of Children and Families. "And what they found in 2002 was not like the scene they walked into in 2005."

The aim, he said, is to keep the child with the parent, and try to help the parent get whatever services he or she might need. But Michelle refused help. And investigators might have felt they didn't have enough evidence to take Danielle, Cox said.

"I'm concerned, though, that no effort was made to interview the child," he said.

"If you have a 4-year-old who is unable to speak, that would raise a red flag to me. "I'm not going to tell you this was okay. I don't know how it could have happened."

Michelle insists Danielle was fine.

"I tried to potty-train her, she wouldn't train. I tried to get her into schools, no one would take her," she says in the kitchen of her trailer. The only thing she ever noticed was wrong, she says, "was that she didn't speak much. She talked in a soft tone. She'd say, ‘Let's go eat.' But no one could hear her except me."

She says she took Danielle to the library and the park. "I took her out for pizza. Once." But she can't remember which library, which park or where they went for pizza.

"She liked this song I'd sing her," Michelle says. "Miss Polly had a dolly, she was sick, sick, sick . . ."

Michelle's older son, Bernard, told a judge that he once asked his mom why she never took Danielle to the doctor. Something's wrong with her, he remembered telling her. He said she answered, "If they see her, they might take her away."

A few months after the second abuse call, Michelle and her kids moved in with her boyfriend in the rundown rental house in Plant City. The day the cops came, Michelle says, she didn't know what was wrong.

The detective found Danielle in the back, sleeping. The only window in the small space was broken. Michelle had tacked a blanket across the shattered glass, but flies and beetles and roaches had crept in anyway.

"My house was a mess," she says. "I'd been sick and it got away from me. But I never knew a dirty house was against the law."

The cop walked past her, carrying Danielle.

"He said she was starving. I told him me and my sisters were all skinny till we were 13.

"I begged him, ‘Please, don't take my baby! Please!' "

She says she put socks on her daughter before he took her to the car, but couldn't find any shoes.

A judge ordered Michelle to have a psychological evaluation. That's among the documents, too.

Danielle's IQ, the report says, is below 50, indicating "severe mental retardation." Michelle's is 77, "borderline range of intellectual ability."

"She tended to blame her difficulties on circumstances while rationalizing her own actions," wrote psychologist Richard Enrico Spana. She "is more concerned with herself than most other adults, and this could lead her to neglect paying adequate attention to people around her."

She wanted to fight for her daughter, she says, but didn't want to go to jail and didn't have enough money for a lawyer.

"I tried to get people to help me," Michelle says. "They say I made her autistic. But how do you make a kid autistic? They say I didn't put clothes on her — but she just tore them off."

After Danielle was taken away, Michelle says, she tripped over a box at Wal-Mart and got in a car accident and couldn't work anymore. In February, she went back to court and a judge waived her community service hours.

She's on probation until 2012.

She spends her days with her sons, doing crossword puzzles and watching movies. Sometimes they talk about Danielle.

When Danielle was in the hospital, Michelle says, she and her sons sneaked in to see her. Michelle took a picture from the file: Danielle, drowning in a hospital gown, slumped in a bed that folded into a wheelchair.

"That's the last picture I have of her," Michelle says. In her kitchen, she snubs out her cigarette. She crosses to the living room, where Danielle's image looks down from the wall.

She reaches up and, with her finger, traces her daughter's face. "When I moved here," she says, "that was the first thing I hung."

She says she misses Danielle.

"Have you seen her?" Michelle asks. "Is she okay?"

Is she okay?

Danielle is better than anyone dared hope. She has learned to look at people and let herself be held. She can chew ham. She can swim. She's tall and blond and has a little belly. She knows her name is Dani.

In her new room, she has a window she can look out of. When she wants to see outside, all she has to do is raise her arms and her dad is right behind her, waiting to pick her up.

About this story

St. Petersburg Times reporter Lane DeGregory and Times photographer Melissa Lyttle met Danielle and her new family at their home in February. All of the scenes at their house and in speech therapy were witnessed by the journalists.

The opening scene and others were reconstructed from interviews with neighbors, the detective, Danielle's care manager, psychologist, teacher, legal guardian and the judge on her case. Additional information came from hundreds of pages of police reports, medical records and court documents.

Michelle Crockett was interviewed at home in Plant City.

In June, Danielle's new parents sold their Florida home and moved out of state. Bernie built Dani a treehouse. Last week, she began summer school.

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.