Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Too Little Sleep in Preschool Years May Predict ADHD

Tuesday, 14 June 2011
American Academy of Sleep MedicineA study suggests link between behavior in kindergarten and sleep loss earlier in life.Preschoolers who don’t get enough sleep are more likely than other children to be hyperactive and inattentive by the time they reach kindergarten, according to a new study.

Although attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is typically not diagnosed before age 5, the study’s authors said the onset of ADHD-like symptoms, such as inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity, often occurs earlier.

“These findings suggest that some children who are not getting adequate sleep may be at risk for developing behavioral problems manifested by hyperactivity, impulsivity, and problems sitting still and paying attention,” study lead author Erika Gaylor, senior researcher for SRI International, an independent, nonprofit research institute in Menlo Park, Calif., said in a news release from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

In conducting the study, researchers examined the sleeping patterns (based on parental accounts of bedtimes and wake times) of

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roughly 6,860 children, taking into account their gender, ethnicity and family income. Parents were also asked to evaluate ADHD-like symptoms in their children, including attention and task persistence as well as hyperactivity and impulsivity.

“Children who were reported to sleep less in preschool were rated by their parents as more hyperactive and less attentive compared to their peers at kindergarten,” Gaylor said.

However, inattention and hyperactivity in the preschool years was not a predictor of sleep duration in kindergarten, the researchers said.

The findings were scheduled for presentation Tuesday at a meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies in Minneapolis.

In a previous study, Gaylor reported that having a consistent bedtime was the most reliable predictor of positive developmental outcomes by age 4.

Because the study is slated to be presented at a meeting, the findings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

At-risk children miss out on kinder

Thursday, 08 June 2011
By Caroline Milburn
The Age

A FREE kindergarten program for Aboriginal and abused children is failing to reach its target, with more than three-quarters of allocated places unfilled.

The Early Start Kindergarten program provides up to 11 hours of free classes a week in Victoria for three-year-old Aboriginal children or those known to child protection services.

But a report by the Victorian Auditor-General says the program is underused.

About 3700 children were eligible for the program last year, according to the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. It budgeted for 2000 places, but only 463 children enrolled. About 56 per cent were from indigenous families.

The department found that not enough kindergartens could accommodate eligible children and the referral and placement arrangements did not work as envisaged.

Chief executive of Kindergarten Parents Victoria, Emma King, says many vulnerable families are highly transient or living in crisis accommodation, which made it difficult to commit to preschool, especially at stand-alone kindergartens offering short, sessional programs.

“Families involved with child protection services are often living in very difficult circumstances. It’s problematic for them to be organised enough to be engaged in sessional kindergarten,” Ms King says, whose organisation represents many of the state’s community-run kindergartens.

“We know these vulnerable children benefit most from early childhood education but parents know that kinder is optional, unlike school. If parents are in crisis mode, kindergarten isn’t on top of their priority list.”

The program appears to be more effective in integrated long day-care facilities, where maternal and child health nurses and social workers can link families into kindergarten and help keep them there.

“The program’s low take-up rate is a question for the broader system of early childhood education — how to ensure we provide more spaces for these families and make them welcome,” Ms King says.

Despite the program’s low take-up rate, the Auditor-General’s report says statewide participation in Early Start has increased since it began in 2008 with about 110 children.

The trend reflects rising statewide participation rates in kindergarten over the past five years among all families with preschool children. Among Victoria’s four-year-olds, 95 per cent attend kindergarten, compared with 91 per cent in 2006.

But the Auditor-General’s report says the department is failing to properly understand and manage demand for kindergarten places.

Last year the department paid $211 million to local councils, community and private groups for kindergarten services, but there are still complaints about long waiting lists for places, especially in parts of suburban Melbourne.

Children can be enrolled for kindergarten through their local council, service provider or through a centralised enrolment system that operates across several local government areas. But the Auditor-General’s report says this causes parents to put their child’s name on multiple waiting lists, making them an unreliable gauge of demand.

“DEECD (the department) does not know the extent of delays for families waiting to access kindergarten programs and how this affects service demand”, the report says. “DEECD’s understanding of demand for kindergarten services is compromised by a number of factors, including the absence of a statewide central enrolment system for kindergartens.”

The early childhood sector is about to undergo its biggest overhaul — from January, all kindergartens and other early childhood services will be accredited against nationally consistent quality standards.

By 2013 all Australian four-year-olds must have access to 15 hours of kindergarten a week, 40 weeks a year, overseen by a university-trained teacher.

The federal government is spending $970 million from 2008-13 to implement the National Partnership Agreement on Early Childhood Education, including $210 million for Victoria.

Minister for Children, Wendy Lovell, says the Baillieu government has started to implement the Auditor-General’s recommendations to improve kindergarten and other early childhood services examined in the report.

Her department, she says, will work with councils to strengthen the quality and consistency of local early years planning.

In tandem with early start, Ms Lovell says the government will begin trials of a new strategy, called Access to Early Learning, aimed at getting more vulnerable children and their families to take up early childhood education and care. The new strategy, funded for two years, will help families locate and enrol in services. It will also help kindergartens and other services to develop programs and practices that respond better to the needs of vulnerable families.

High-quality early education services are cited by leading education researchers as a key factor in breaking the cycle of poverty and welfare dependence that afflicts many families.

Numerous studies have shown that adults who attended high quality preschools as children

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were less likely to be dependent on welfare or go to prison. They are also more likely to finish high school and have higher rates of employment and lifetime earnings than those who didn’t attend preschool.

Child care is protective for children with depressed mothers

Monday, 13 June 2011

By: Lynne C. Giles, MPH, PhDa,b,
Michael J. Davies, MPH, PhDb,c,
Melissa J. Whitrow, PhDa,b,
Megan J. Warin, PhDd,
Vivienne Moore, MPH, PhDa,b

Published in the peer reviewed journal: Pediatrics

Child care may be a good choice to minimize the effects of a mother’s depression on her young children, a new study shows.

Research in recent years has pointed to the convergence of a woman’s depression and behavior problems in young children.

Simply put, if a mother is depressed her young children are likely to exhibit more behavior and mood problems themselves and experience cognitive and language delays. The effects of postpartum depression on babies have

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been know for some time. But experts now believe that even toddlers and school-aged children are impacted by a mother who is sad.

The new study, conducted by scientists at the University of Adelaide, South Australia, looked at 438 mothers and children from pregnancy until the child was age 5. Researchers confirmed that children were much more likely to have behavior problems if their mothers were depressed.

But those children who spent as little as four hours a week in formal day care at age 2 showed fewer behavior problems at age 5. Being in the program seemed to buffer the children against some of the effects of their mothers’ depression.

Rates of depression in women peak during the child-bearing years. Thus, the numbers of children exposed to maternal depression is high. But, the authors wrote: “Our results suggest that a modest amount of formal child care for toddlers of depressed mothers is a simple strategy that may have benefits for affected mothers and their children.”

Full Article:

Lack of combined approach to play, childcare and learning in early childhood education

Tuesday, 14 June 2011
Health Canal

When preschool children ask questions about science they risk being left in the lurch by their teachers. Learning seems to have less of a focus among preschool teachers, despite what is laid down in the preschool’s curriculum. These are the findings of a thesis from the University of Gothenburg.

In her thesis, Susanne Thulin examines the way in which teachers and children communicate around science questions in early childhood education. Her study includes video observations of children and teachers at preschools working with a scientific subject within two themed areas, “Life in the tree stump”, and “How soil is formed”.

Her results indicate that children risk missing the scientific content. Children’s questions are often met with questions from the teachers. It is quite rare for the children to get answers or learn from the teacher’s knowledge and experience within the field in question. It is also the teacher who introduces the use of language, for example the anthropomorphic language in which animals are humanised.

Random explanations

“Children want to make sense of the world but they risk being left to come up with their own random explanations,” says Susanne Thulin.She has identified several possible reasons for the results.“Firstly it may be that the teachers are actually unable to answer the children’s questions. Secondly it could be down to the traditional, overriding view of the role of preschool in Sweden. This view places a heavier emphasis on childcare and play, as opposed to learning. According to this approach, teachers should not be prescriptive and tell children everything. Children are supposed to think for themselves and find things out on their own,” says Susanne Thulin.

Enhanced knowledge role

The role of preschools has changed. The first preschool curriculum appeared in 1998, giving preschools a more prominent role in the education system. The enhanced knowledge role of preschools has been further emphasised in the revised curriculum, which comes into effect on 1 July 2011. In the science subjects, specific content such as chemistry, physical phenomena and technology are now to be dealt with in the early childhood education environment, in addition to biology, ecology and the environment.

“But if we are to encourage children’s appetite for learning then teachers need to have the ability to create links between children’s everyday experiences, their everyday language on the one hand and scientific language and a

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The thesis has been developed within the framework of the National Research School of Childhood, Learning and Didactics (RSCLD).

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