Archive for February 28th, 2008

Preschool Executive Function

February 28, 2008

I heard a wonderful story today on NPR, that I hope someone at Boy’s school heard as well.  The story was titled, “Creative Play Makes for Kids in Control.”  The story was about one school’s work with helping kids develop “regulat[ion of] their behavior and emotions.”  The curriculum is based on the program called, “Tools of the Mind.”  From the sound of things such a program ought to spread across the country. 

Consider this, with more kids spending more time watching television and playing video games inside, less kids are playing with their imagination.  “Tools of the Mind” encourages such imaginative play.  It sounds at first very prescribed, according to the story, before play, the children sit down with their teacher and create a plan on paper.  The plan, however, along with the imagination at work, evidently help a child build what’s identified as “executive function.”   As the story progresses, we learn that “executive function” consists of several cognitive developments that are delayed by all that T.V. watching and video game playing, “such as working memory and cognitive flexibility.”  The most vital of this cognitive development is what’s called, “self-regulation — the ability for kids to control their emotions and behavior, resist impulses, and exert self-control and discipline.”  The link between lagging executive function and “high dropout rates, drug use and crime” is strong.  But there’s another link weak self-regulation has that I’ve considered before, and that is its link to ADHD diagnoses. 

Adele Diamond, executive function researcher, argues in the piece that:  “I think a lot of kids get diagnosed with ADHD now, not all but many just because they never learned how to exercise self-control, self-regulation, the executive functions early.”

In at least one future entry, I hope to share some research that I’ve done concerning executive function, and more specifically inhibitory control, where I cited work by Diamond.  But for now, check out the story at NPR, and consider asking your preschool center if they’ve heard of “Tools of the Mind.”   

There’s some great Q & A after the piece.  You can read or listen to the story online here.

Accredited Preschools

February 28, 2008

One way to have avoided some of our preschool problems might have been to do a little more research.  We failed miserably in looking carefully, but it can be quite daunting finding a preschool when the price is right, it’s close to home, and you assume that all preschools are alike and you’re not quite sure what to look for.   

Quite frankly, I’m not sure we could have afforded much better, especially when I see the names of preschools within a 15 mile radius of our home that are actually accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).  Only one accredited school is in the town where we live, and that is the school Boy is eligible for next year (eligibility is based on age).  Next year’s school is part of our school district and the curriculum builds the foundation for the Begindergarten and Kindergarten curriculum in our district (things like zoo-phonics, which is a strange animal for this high school teacher).  Then again, the location we chose for Boy this year made similar claims about the preparation for Kindergarten; however, it is not NAEYC accredited.   

Now I’m not saying NAEYC is the gold standard, yet accreditations and certifications from an outside source are signs that a school is doing more than self-evaluating.  Sometimes we need outside eyes to help us see something about ourselves that we might not have otherwise noticed.   

Our family has learned some lessons about school this year, and only through those experiences have I discovered where to find out the information that we needed at the beginning of this year.  When Little Sister’s old enough for preschool, provided her mom wants to let the baby out of the house, we’ve got some resources to explore, and as I find them, I will be sure to share them.  Today, here are two:  

NAEYC sponsors a website.  Negotiating any governmental website can be daunting; however, I think the most useful link is going to be the accreditation search.  There are other links, some for schools seeking affiliation and accreditation with the NAEYC and some for parents trying to find out what the NAEYC and its accreditation process is all about, and the one that caught my eye  is http://www.rightchoiceforkids.org.  There are lots of pdf’s to search through too, and my Adobe is unreliable, but if you sift through more at NAEYC’s site, leave a comment and let us know what you’ve found to be valuable.  

I consider it a little ironic that I learned about NAEYC and its accreditation program through pamphlets I picked up at Boy’s school titled, get this, “Media Violence & Children” and “Helping Children Learn Self-Control.”  For information on why this is ironic, take a look here and here.     

The second source comes from another pamphlet I grabbed that looked promising:  “Promoting Educational Achievement for Children Early (P.E.A.C.E.):  A Child Care Expulsion Prevention Program.”  P.E.A.C.E. is affiliated with the Riverwood Center, a county specific organization, and the United Way. 

Boy has not been in danger of expulsion, but his bully has, and P.E.A.C.E. shares why my community, and any community really, has reason to be concerned about Yale’s studies  regarding the alarming rates of preschool expulsions.  Beyond recognizing that “social and emotional competence of young children predicts their academic performance in 1st grade, over and above their cognitive skills and family background,” and that “young children who act in anti-social ways are provided with less instruction and less positive feedback [which leads them] to like school less, learn less and attend less,” P.E.A.C.E. suggests a link between poverty, inadequate prenatal care, child abuse, and participation in childcare 40-60 hours a week as risk factors for children.   

Because of these risk factors, P.E.A.C.E. “provides consultation for parents and child care providers” for preschool aged children who exhibit “behavioral or emotional challenges that put them at risk of expulsion for childcare.”  In other words, even day care centers, including “anyone who directs or works in a day care setting” is eligible for free services through this program, and services include training for providers and families.  P.E.A.C.E. is only available in my county, but as indicated above, the program is associated with the United Way, so if you are struggling with the kinds of problems we have faced as a family, you might consider contacting your local United Way to see what programs are available for you.  The United Way, after all, does emphasize its program “Success by 6.”   

For me, I plan to contact the name on the pamphlet and share our story.  I will be sure to share what comes of that conversation here.