Paul Nyhan

Newborn screening breakthroughs create challenges

Bioethical issues during pregnancy and childbirth likely will only get more complicated for parents and doctors in the coming years. This week The Wall Street Journal explores new challenges posed by breakthroughs in newborn screening.

Technology allows hospitals to test newborns for a growing number of disorders, the newspaper reported, even though parents can’t do much to treat some of the illnesses found during testing.

Some states have expanded their checks, including testing for amino-acid and metabolism disorders. Many of the new conditions being looked at have no definitive treatment or it isn’t clear whether immediate intervention is necessary. That can present an emotional dilemma for parents… (more)

Working doesn’t lead to poorer parenting, study finds

Do you remember the mommy wars?

The public debate focused on perceived tension between moms who stayed home and those who went back to work after the birth of a child. Battles still break out, though it’s an open question whether this dialogue is created by the media and too focused on upper-income families.

Now, a study released this month promises to change the debate because it shows that working doesn’t lead to weaker parenting by mom.

Six months after childbirth, “logging full time hours at the office was no longer associated with a drop in parenting quality…” (more)

Promising model for increasing higher degrees among early learning teachers

One of the most common ideas in early learning is that a key to improving quality in child care is increasing the number of teachers with higher degrees. A study highlights the successes of one approach that led to most students receiving degrees and many receiving raises and promotions.

The study examined how students in small cohort programs fared when pursuing a bachelor’s degree. The model brings together students with similar backgrounds and characteristics in BA programs, according to the University of California, Berkeley study.

The study’s findings were interesting to say the least: (more)


How to create long-term change with Race to the Top early learning grants

One of the keys to the Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge’s long-term success will be leverage. How will states and the federal government leverage a relatively small amount of money, $500 million, to support systemic changes in early education across the country?

On Friday, the First Five Years Fund and BUILD took a step to help by announcing the Early Learning Challenge Collaborative, which will offer states technical assistance with RTTT applications and help develop strategies to support long-term funding and policies.

Technical assistance appears to be a big need, and the consortium will create webinars for states on core topics, such as school readiness, and provide individualized aid, such as expert feedback on application drafts, according to Kathy Glazer, state services director at BUILD.               


$10 a day child care?

Canada has a different approach to many social policy challenges than the U.S. Now, an idea has emerged in British Columbia to charge parents $10 a day for child care, The Victoria Times Colonist reports.

The idea comes from the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of B.C., and it’s only a proposal, not a new policy.



Children who talk later not at higher risk for behavioral problems later, study says

When a child talks later than expected parents can worry. But, a new study found that children who were late talkers when they were two years old were not at a higher risk to develop behavioral and emotional problems later in childhood, Pediatrics reports.

The study tracked more than 2,800 families in Australia until their children were 18 years old.

Children who were late-talkers had mild levels of behavioral and emotional problems at age 2, but are at no greater risk of these problems during childhood or adolescence.


Half of pediatricians don’t screen for developmental delays

Screening for developmental delays is a key step in the health of infants and toddlers. If a doctor can detect a delay early, a family can start intervention treatments, which can improve the chances for progress in school and life.

Today nearly half of pediatricians almost always screen for developmental delays during checkups, a study released this week found. The good news is the percentage of these doctors rose to 48 percent from 23 percent between 2002 and 2009, according to the research released by Pediatrics. This is also the bad news, since it suggests less than half of pediatricians almost always screen.



Watching TV in the evening and violent shows associated with kids’ sleep problems

Television is part of the daily lives of many young families and a new study shows that watching TV in the evening and violent shows in the daytime can disrupt sleep of preschoolers.

Overall, preschool-age children watched, on average, 1 hour and 12 minutes of television a day, according to the study published in Pediatrics today. Each additional hour of TV watching in the evening was associated with a noticeable jump in sleep problems, researchers found. Watching violent shows during the day also was associated with increases in sleep problems.

These effects were not mitigated by adult co-use… (more)



Rich learning in home may help close school-readiness gap

The idea that education starts at home and in the first year, maybe even in the womb, is a basic concept of early learning. A new study found a rich home learning environment during a child’s initial years of life could help close the school-readiness gap between low-income and higher-income families, ScienceDaily reports.

The study looked at a series of factors in the home, such as levels of shared reading, varied adult vocabulary, and how easy it was to access books, the journal reports.

The researchers found that differences in the children’s learning environments over time predicted their readiness skills…




Self control may be more important for academic performance than IQ

Self-control is possibly more important in a child’s future academic performance than IQ and educators in British Columbia and Ontario, Canada, are focusing on that skill in kindergarten, according to a new article.

Self-regulation is a hot topic in education, something that’s hard to quantify but it can be better than even IQ at predicting academic success. It’s also a side effect of play-based learning, the centrepiece of new full-day kindergarten programs in Ontario and British Columbia. – “EQ over IQ: How play-based learning can lead to more successful kids.” The Globe and Mail. 6/13/11.

The article suggests an important point. Self-regulation can be harder to quantify than other academic skills and IQ, but we are learning how important it is. How can we develop better ways to assess and develop this skill in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten?