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Infant Toddler Development Training
Module 4, Lesson 5

Activity #1

Read Chapter 3, Recommended Practices in Child-Focused Interventions, in DEC Recommended Practices in Early Intervention/Early Childhood Special Education. Pay particular attention to the "Key Features" section.

Based on your reading, consider how parents naturally provide their children with an array of experiences in the home and community which are great for embedding interventions. List at least four.

Activity #2
Expected Cognitive Development As Seen Through Infant-Toddler Play

  1. Go to Brain Wonders
  2. Click on Child Care providers;
  3. Click on the 18-24 months - cognition link.

baby trying to stand upRead the information on this website. Suggest a naturally occurring activity which will enhance cognitive development of infants and toddlers. Make sure the activity can occur in the natural learning environment and will enhance symbolic thought. You will most likely find your activity or functional skill also covers another developmental domain. As we have mentioned frequently in this module, development is integrated and crosses domains in infants and toddlers.

Activity #3
Everyday Activities, Materials, and Routines as Reinforcements

Activities or actions paired with a pleasant experience, action, object, food (popcorn!) or other reward is likely to be reinforced, learned, and repeated by an infant toddler. While some activities that are colorful, shiny, have lights, or make noises may be attractive to some children at times, these are not always necessary

Just being able to get a rattle into his/her mouth, jump on one foot, or going to the potty by him/herself is naturally reinforcing for an infant/toddler who is developing new skills everyday. Many reinforcements are likely to occur naturally to support infant/toddlers construction of knowledge and cognitive skills - things the child enjoys doing. Development to the next level of ability can be itself a reward to many infants/toddlers.

The ultimate goal is for the infant/toddler to develop an internal system of reinforcement (doing it for "goodness" sake for self and others) and not depend on an external reward from another ("What will I get if I do this?"). But for some infants/toddlers, especially those with severe disabilities or severe trauma, systematic formalized reinforcement is needed to assure the child progresses to the next level of ability.

If an external reinforcement is used, first assess what is pleasurable to each infant/toddler because only uniquely pleasurable experiences that match the infant/toddlers preferences will impact behavior (not, necessarily what is pleasurable to the caregiver or service provider). Reinforcements or motivators and enticements can come in many forms. Some reinforcements are highly effective and desirable actions; other reinforcements are motivating and even enticing, but not desirable so caregivers may want to redirect or substitute an undesirable reinforcement for a desirable one.

Many reinforcements are effective because they are reinforcements in environments that support choice and can eventually be used by infants and toddlers to reinforce themselves. The following are some desirable reinforcements:

  1. having a choice of activities or materials can be in and of itself very pleasurable
  2. certain types of materials, i.e., some infant/toddlers may prefer toys that light up, some might prefer stacking toys
  3. familiarity of activity setting or material, i.e. children with visual impairments can be reinforced by traveling through a familiar area that he/she has previously navigated
  4. a captivating sensory experience, i.e. a great smell that a baby prefers, terry cloth toys to fondle, certain music or tones that a baby prefers
  5. experiences that older kids/adults get to do (e.g., sitting in chair instead of a high chair at the breakfast table; using dad's computer in his home office)
  6. something easy to do, i.e. when a toddler has just mastered something challenging such as climbing a step, offering something easy to do afterwards, such as moving a toe can be a treat
  7. something challenging to do, i.e. completing a 10 piece puzzle
  8. the biggest, i.e. tower of blocks of the group
  9. specific and intermediate praise, i.e. While not every time, the baby builds a tower, sometimes, the caregiver says, "You have built a higher tower of blocks than you did the last time! " (...though striving at tasks for praise alone can be itself debilitating for some infant/toddlers as they may never learn to do things for their own self-satisfaction).

Reinforcements that may be avoided

The following are reinforcements, but not always desirable to learn to use to become productive and cooperative family members and children in group settings:

  • being first in, i.e. to wash hands, to get to the car for a drive
  • risky or prohibited experiences, i.e. while not used, it should be noted that infant/toddlers may be motivated to do that which they have been told not to do
  • having your own when others don't have one, i.e. a toddler takes pleasure in being the only one in the room who is playing with the highly coveted pretend vacuum cleaner
  • food, i.e. with caution as eating to soothe can lead to overeating and obesity

As with all external reinforcements, the goal is for the adult to use the reinforcement only as long as the child needs this to see the value and continue a new or desired skill, i.e. finding the right puzzle piece. Then the adult fades out or slowing reduces the adult input into reinforcing the child for a desired behavior - until the child takes over and reinforces him/herself or the task itself become reinforcing.

Katie's Scenario
Katie's parents have assessed that she is motivated by praise, applause, and chocolate. She also rides horses and likes it. She learns best when she is having fun and can pick up on things quickly. She can identify colors and shapes by pointing and can say about 60 words. She watches the Wiggles, paints, and swims. Also, consider her favorite toys, books, and songs. Katie's parents want her to enjoy school as she will be transitioning to a preschool this next year.

Now, knowing what you do about Katie, name one cognitive functional outcome which her parents and transdisciplinary team could have for her this summer before she is three and goes to preschool. What reinforcements would you make sure are in place? Be sure to use a naturally occurring reinforcement.


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