The Dangers of Consuming Alcohol While Pregnant

10 Jul

This is my latest research for a written assignment I completed for my Infant & Toddler Development course.  I thoroughly explain the dangers of drinking alcohol while pregnant.  I honestly believe it is not that difficult to wait 9 months to have a cocktail.  Think before you act Mommies…

Fetal alcohol syndrome has caused devastating effects in children, causing abnormalities in brain functioning.  This includes, but not limited to, activity that’s associated with transferring messages from one side of the brain to another (Berk, page 109, 2012).  As a child with FAS becomes of age to attend school, they tend to have poor motor coordination, and difficulties processing information.  In many cases, this means extremely hard times for these children, as they exhibit poor performances in their studies.  Couples that wish to be parents, or at least mothers expecting should avoid drinking alcohol completely (Berk, 2012).

The following studies confirm the long-term effects FAS has on school children.  It is with hopes that those planning a pregnancy will not only take this information seriously, but utilize it when faced with the decision of whether or not they should have a drink while pregnant.

Abusing alcohol is a dangerous habit, but when a mother is drinking for two, it does pose additional risks to her unborn baby.  According to a PubMed Health article on ‘Fetal Alcohol Syndrome’, when a pregnant woman drinks, the alcohol easily passes across the placenta to the fetus.  With reports of 25 percent of U.S. mothers drinking during their pregnancies, it is more likely that there are many children out there whom are diagnosed with developmental disorders as a result (Berk, 2012 page 109).

Alcohol is one of the many teratogens that can cause damage to a child during a prenatal period.  Table 3.4 on page 109 in the Berk text shows that children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder are given one of three diagnoses: fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), partial fetal alcohol syndrome (p-FAS), or alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder (ARND).  These diagnoses differ in the severity of symptoms such as: slow physical growth, brain injury, and some, if not all three of these facial abnormalities—short eyelid openings, a thin upper lip, and smooth or flattened philtrum.  The diagnostic p-FAS contain two facial abnormalities and some brain injury.  ARND only contains some brain injury, and FAS, the most serious of the three diagnoses, contains slow physical growth, some brain injury, and all three facial abnormalities (Berk, 2012).

The brain injury which results from FAS can affect areas of functioning that are imperative for children that are trying to learn—for example, memory, delayed language development, poor attention span, difficulties planning and reasoning, poor motor coordination, and minimal social skills (Berk, 2012).

But why exactly are children so affected by exposure to alcohol while in the womb?

A journal from the Fetal Alcohol Disorders Society explained how FAS children may have learning disabilities in these four areas: input of information, integration, memory, and output, all of which are crucial for completing simple tasks.

A case study proves that a child with FAS having difficulties processing and outputting is quite normal.  For instance, let’s say a child is asked to transfer toys from the living room into the toy box in her bedroom.  The expected behavior of this child would be to either: go into the bedroom and forget what to do, or go into the living room and arrange the cushions on the couch.

These actions of a FAS child are the result of changes to the central nervous system.  A study was conducted at UW-Madison where they exposed a chick embryo to alcohol.

“We found that calcium released by alcohol has an immediate and devastating effect on certain neurological cells,” says Susan Smith, a professor of nutritional sciences in UW-Madison’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. “In this study we show clearly the source and the target of the calcium, and we also show that the pathways of cell death overlap with some of the pathways that give the addictive and rewarding properties of alcohol.”

The finding that alcohol acts through similar pathways to both kill embryonic cells and affect adult brain function suggests that researchers may be able to predict how alcohol will affect neurons, Smith says. And she adds, “The shared signaling is consistent with concerns that prenatal alcohol exposure could increase a person’s desire for alcohol rewards later in life.” (UW- Madison News, 2005).

The researchers examined the embryos under a microscope thoroughly to observe how the calcium released by the alcohol affected the developing neurological tissue.

“We immediately saw a flood of calcium, and within the first second we saw that certain brain cells were affected, and died shortly afterward – and those cells are not regenerated. It only took one dose of about .3 percent alcohol, which by human standards is high but achievable, especially for alcoholics,” explains Garic-Stankovic (UW- Madison News, 2005).

According to the UW-Madison, fetal alcohol syndrome is even more common than Down’s syndrome or cerebral palsy.  FAS is the leading cause of mental retardation in much of the world, occurring two to three times in every thousand live births in the United States (UW- Madison News, 2005).

Recent research also implies that if an unborn child is exposed repeatedly to even low amounts of alcohol, problems can still occur.  This includes issues regarding learning, judgment, and attention disorders—many of which are unrecognizable until the child is four or five years old (UW- Madison News, 2005).

Thankfully, there are teaching tactics to help the development of children with FAS.  For example, strategies such as visual cues may enhance language development, rhyme and music for memory and integration, scripted plays to exercise social skills, and the use of videotapes to instruct certain concepts (Fall, 1991).

Although treatment for these children is available, it should be absolutely necessary for pregnant women to be educated on the genetic and environmental consequences that result from drinking alcohol during the prenatal period.  Hopefully if they become aware of these long-term effects, it could possibly cause a decline in mothers choosing to drink while expecting.

Sources:

UW-Madison News, S. S. (2005, August 9). Study suggests broader damage from fetal alcohol syndrome. Retrieved from http://www.news.wisc.edu/11394

Fall, D. (1991). A.d.a.m. medical encyclopedia.. Retrieved from http://www.faslink.org/j.htm

Vorvick, L. J. (2011, August 15). Pubmed health. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001909/

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We are Responsible for Who Our Children Become

13 Jun

After reading this chapter in my textbook for my Infant and Toddler Development class, it amazes me on how many factors can affect a child’s environment.  It is kind of frightening actually, as a child can be enormously affected by factors that they have no control over. According to the journal by Knafo and Plomin, a child’s prosocial behavior is heavily influenced from the parenting styles chosen by his or her mother and father.  This makes me want to be the perfect parent.

I believe this is a fear of mine, but isn’t it the fear of anyone who will be a parent someday?  I am absolutely petrified that I will not raise my children in the “ideal” fashion.  It’s kind of funny of how I am not ashamed to admit that in the least bit–how very vulnerable of me!

I strongly believe that genetics does affect the environment.  As explained on page 85 in the Berk text, passive correlation is when values are instilled in children when they have no control over it.  The book uses the example of a child inheriting athletic abilities or interests because their parent(s) had emphasized outdoor activities.  However, what if the passive correaltion is not so positive?  In some cases, violence is hereditary; it is sometimes passed down for more than one generation.  Children cannot control these unfortunate circumstances, which means there is a possibility that they may inherit this quality and become violent themselves.

The other side of this negative passive correlation that I speak of is the simple fact that not every child is affected by it, or they are not always a product of their environment, so to speak.  On page 86, it states that “accumulating evidence reveals that the relationship between heredity and environment is not a one-way street, from genes to environment to behavior”.  Both affect one another; it is biodirectional.  It was proven in the study on page 86 that unfavorable genetic-environment correalation can be uncoupled through good, caring, parenting strategies.  Through good parenting, positive experiences are bestowed among children, which “modify the expression of heredity”.  For example, a child may have had negative passive-correaltion from their biological parents.  Let’s say he or she was then adopted by a kind, loving family that treated them in a positive manner–this could very well result in prosocial behavior rather than aggression, or other unfavorable attitudes.

As mentioned in the Berk text, genes affect children’s behavior and experiences, but their experiences and behavior also affect gene expression.  So, I while I do agree that genetics affects the environment, I also believe in the biodirectional theory; that the environment affects genetics as well.  I am a walking example of this.  My childhood was not perfect, but who’s is anyway?  I made a huge promise to myself–my kids will have it a lot better than I did, and I strongly believe that I am the only one who is responsible for this outcome.

Berk, E., Laura. Infants and Children: Prenatal Through Middle Childhood. 7th ed. Pearson Education, Inc. 2012.

Knafo, Ariel, and Robert Plomin. “Prosocial Behavior from Early to Middle Childhood: Genetic and Environmental Influences on Stability and Change.” Developmental Psychology 42.5 (2006): 771-86. Print.

(http://pluto.huji.ac.il/~mshayo/Ebstein3_Prosocial_behavior.pdf)

My Most Personal Post Yet

7 Jun

So, I very rarely use my blog as a personal venting area.  I find that many people DO use their blogs as a diary.  Anywho, here’s getting to know me….

On February 10th, 2012, my boyfriend Brian and I were on the observation deck of the Marriot Custom House in Boston, Mass.  After kissing me on the head he got down on one knee and proposed.  Ever since that day, scratch that—ever since the day that we met…I’ve been on cloud nine.

How cliche; boy meets girl, they marry, and live happily ever after.  Blah, blah, blah.  No but in all seriousness, I am so happy.  Sometimes I can hardly contain my happiness.  I tell my friend Loretta that I feel as though sunshine and rainbows are going to burst through my skin (lol).

I just love my fiance so very much.  Sometimes I think God built the perfect man and sent him to me through some sort of debt; not that the “big man upstairs” owes anyone (let alone me) any debts, and I won’t get into specifics here…but did I deserve this man?  I’d like to think so.  My road has not been easy up until this point and I cannot thank the good Lord enough for sending Brian to me.  I like to thank God for him, but in reality I should thank Brian himself.  He is the most wonderful person I have ever met in my entire life–fiance or not.  He’s a great man, and the fact that I am marrying him in 1 year and 4 months makes me beam with pride.

I can only hope that I get to change my blog to “The Nifty Mommy” is a couple of years!   🙂

I Just Adore The Fresh Beat Band

1 Jun

Okay, so I am obsessed with The Fresh Beat Band lol, alright maybe not OBSESSED.  That’s I dangerous word.  However I do think they are a wonderfully talented group.

The show is super cute and funny.  I also own the CD (only con is that the problem solving song is not on it lol) and their songs are ridiculously catchy.  The little girl I babysit for adores them and it’s oh SO cute to see a child of her size singing and dancing to the music.  I’d love to get her tickets for her 2nd birthday, but they are just as pricey as my Madonna tickets!  Too funny.  Very deserving though Fresh Beats, very deserving.

I have been trying to read on the FBB, but only found a few fun facts on IMDB:

The Fresh Beat Band was originally called The Jumparounds.
Each member of the band has their own catchphrase. Shout – “Cool Beans!”, Marina – “Hip Hop and Pop!”, Kiki – “Kickin’!”, and Twist – “sweet”.
Each band member has their own designated colors. Even when they change outfits, the outfits still have the same colors. Shout – brown and orange, Marina – teal and purple, Kiki – pink and white, and Twist – blue and yellow
The Fresh Beat Band has a group of younger children that dress like them, and follow them around. This group is known as the Junior Beats.
The town that they live in is never mentioned.
Shayna Rose (the original girl that played the character “Marina”) left the series after the second season, because she got engaged and also wanted to pursue other acting opportunities. She was replaced by Tara Perry.
Anyhow, if you would like my advice, get your children into the FBB!  Not only will they be attracted to the singing and dancing, but each episode has a story–complete with humor and extremely bright colors.

For your viewing pleasure, The Fresh Beat Band’s “Shine”–http://youtu.be/mHZ6WlEz3j0

Water Table Play

21 May


Okay, so for $99.99 dollars at Walmart you can buy the water table pictured above.  I know a hundred bucks is a nice chunk of change, but trust me.  Water tables provide so much more of an amazing learning experience than you may think.  It is not just about your little one splashing and making a mess.

First off, your child will have a great time practicing their sensory skills.  Give them a bowl and a tiny cup.  Have them count how many cups it took them to fill that bowl.

Other items to use in water tables that most parents/nannies/teachers may not think of:

-Eye droppers

-Toy Cars

-Toy/plastic animals

-Paper

-Sand (Nifty idea: have the child(ren) make animal tracks in the sand with the plastic animals)

-Shovels/buckets/cups

-Sponges

-Baby Dolls

My favorite water play activity is something I’d like to call “Water Babies”.  Fill the table up just covering the base, squeeze in a dab of soap (enough to create some bubbles), then throw in some sponges and naked dolls/ babies.  Walk the child through the steps of giving the baby a bath and drying them off.  This instills empathy, mimics self-help skills, and shows responsibility.  Your child will feel important that they are actually giving a “baby” a bath.

This is also a very cute activity, as children typically say the most adorable things while cleaning their baby dolls.

**Remember, this activity is suitable for little boys too.  I think it is important for boys to play with dolls because like I said, it instills empathy.

Specific Literature for the Specific Child

9 May

            

In Anthology of Children’s Literature mentioned in a lecture from my class, there are two groups involved in the “situation of conflict” regarding the meaning of childhood.  Like my professor explained, the first group believes that childhood is a time period in which the preparation for adulthood begins.   The second group is those that consider childhood to be “a state in its own right”, in other words, a time to enjoy the excitement of being a child.  In my opinion, to enjoy the excitement of being a child has a lot to do with free will.  By not having ideas imposed on you, one can appreciate the “adopting of subject positions” or “the adoption of which can make us understandable to ourselves and others” (Nodelman, page 178).

In order for a child to become acquainted with one’s self, or to become empowered by a subject position, certain stories or commentaries are more appropriate than others; to suit a particular type of child.

As stated on page 179 in my Nodelman textbook, identification may lead to manipulation, meaning that a child whom accepts their similarity to a story or character, are asked to believe the presented conclusions regarding right and wrong behavior.  These ideologies can very well be imposed on a child (whether intended to do so or not).  Isaac Watts was the author of the poem “Against Quarrelling and Fighting”, which was presented in his 1715 publication, Divine Songs for Children.  The poem was a part of a collection that was read in Protestant school books for generations.  Rather than taking the arbitrary route in imposing religious maturity on children, Watts took the enticing approach; he created his poems with “universal appeal” (Zipes, 528).

Religious children would enjoy Watts’ poem because it speaks to them on a mutual level; for example, the utilization of words such as “you should never” rather than “you will never”.  The gentle words presented in “Against Quarrelling and Fighting” may reach children on a whole other level than that of forceful principle or propaganda.  Forceful piety could very well result in children turning away from their religious beliefs, as time goes on.  Children should not be pressured to adhere to what behavior may be acceptable under religious guidelines.  However, many believe that they cannot exercise free will unless some time of information is demonstrated before them.  Certain ideologies or subject positions can be derived in a positive light from Watts’ poem.  A religious child may find comfort in Watts’ writings:

Now Lord of all he reigns above,

And from his heavenly throne,

He sees what children dwell in love,

And marks them for his own.

            Watts focuses on the positive.  Rather than having a child read what their fate would be shall they lie, curse, or scuff, they are discovering that they will be accepted by the hand of God if they act conventionally. 

            Another story that may appeal to religious children is “Jessica’s First Prayer” by Hesba Stretton, as it tells the tale of a child that discovers spirituality.  The sequence of events, however, is also fit for a child that has experienced abuse in his or her lifetime.  A child that has been or is being abused (physically or mentally) may experience an array of emotions; humiliation, loneliness, and neglect can be three of many.  Jessica is a character of bravery.  Her bravery triggers curiosity that prompts her to uncover a system of beliefs.  This ultimately leads up to the discovery of the Christian faith, thus warming the heart of her “friend” and minister Daniel, whom adopts her.  I say this story can touch both abused and religious children because of its heart-rending figuration.  Religious children could find pleasure in the fact that Jessica had “found God”, so to speak.  Abused children could find comfort in the idea that when there is no one else to turn to; you can always turn to religion.  You can find prayer in sorrow.  Also, the moment when Daniel discovers his love for Jessica can give a child hope; an understanding that love can still exist outside of the abusive home in which they live in.  They may find a place to escape to; a place where someone like Daniel can love them as well.

            When a child adopts subject positions, more often than not, it is influenced by what they have or have not experienced.  Children that are raised by same-sex parents have never known both a mother and a father; they were never introduced to what we would call “the norm”, so to speak.  In Robert Munsch’s tale of “The Paper Bag Princess”, the character Elizabeth surely breaks the mold of the stereotypical female.  The story sends a feminist, nonsexist, non-traditional, message.  Typically, the princess (Elizabeth) should find her Prince (Ronald) and live happily ever after.  When she arrives, they both come to the conclusion that they are not right for each other; quite surprising really, as not many fairy tales end in this particular manner. 

            The story sends a message to children that sometimes “normal” isn’t quite so normal.  What is normal anyway?  As children, the idea of man and woman living happily ever after was imposed on us in almost every fairy tale; i.e.: Cinderella and Snow White.  Never once did the characters decide that they should not be together, until “The Paper Bag Princess”.  Elizabeth is not your typical princess.  She is brave, sarcastic, and sees her prince as “unfit” for her.  She could possibly represent a woman that enters a same-sex marriage, which is also often seen as non-typical, or unconventional.  This story reminds this particular type of child that it is okay for their situation to be unconventional.

            According to a blog written by Dr. John Grohol on psychcentral.com, same-sex couples are less likely to impose certain gender-based expectations on their children.

“If we want what’s best for the children, then, we have to acknowledge that gay parents don’t pose any particular problem. In fact, such parents may actually help raise more gender-neutral children who are open to more possibilities for their careers and lives. Food for thought as the gay marriage debate continues on throughout the country.” (Grohol, http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2009/11/09/children-of-gay-parents/)

            This supports my theory on adopting subject positions.  Children can only embrace them by not having ideas imposed on them.  Whether these ideas are gender-based or religious, children will not understand how the world works unless there is some free will involved.  Stories with open-minded views are likely to help accomplish this.

PHOTO COURTESY OF:

parentdish.com

            

Matching a Child to Literature

24 Apr

 

From the time when a child becomes aware of their surroundings, literature should play some sort of significant role in their lives.  As mentioned in my literature class, children should first be exposed to the picture book; after the picture book,  schemata begins to develop—thus influencing responses, as well as their future encounters with literature.

As adults, what many of us do not realize is that every single child is different in their own way.  Whether it is through knowledge, beliefs, or personal experiences, each of them have an individual thought process.

“As their experience of books and of life widens, children develop more subtle schemata: not only information but also ways of connecting that information to a text’s references to it that allow them to make greater sense of what that read and get deeper pleasure from it” (Nodelman text, page 53).

I believe that schemata are developed by what children experience at a young age; their thought process is affected by both literature and their own personal situations.  As explained in the Nodelman text, everyone has different experiences of language and of life.  Each reader gets something different out of the same story.  Everyone has a different meaning of the shared text; a different schemata.  I apply this theory to the idea that there are specific stories that may be appropriate for certain types of children.  In stories such as:  Frog and Toad Are Friends, Hansel and Gretel, and Robin Hood, specific types of children that have experienced certain things, may develop an appreciation or salutation for these stories

that you and I have not.

I myself was a child raised in a single-parent household before my step-father came into my life.  Frog and Toad Are Friends were books that I often read to myself, by myself, in my room.  I remember feeling comfort in reading the series.  Frog and Toad were the best of friends and would do anything for each other.  The concept made me feel like I wasn’t alone; as an only child with my Mother working, I often did feel alone.  The Letter from the Frog and Toad books is a story in which a child raised by a single parent can find gratification.  In the reading, Toad expresses to his friend Frog how when the mail comes, he feels sad because he never typically receives any letters.  Frog then rushes home, and begins writing a letter to his friend Toad:

“Dear Toad, I am glad that you are my best friend.  Your best friend, Frog.”

They both wait for the letter together and four days letter, the snail delivers it.  The moral and value in the story is clear and simple; you are not alone and you will always have someone to lift your spirits.  This happy little story does just that.  The little ways that Frog and Toad show their comradery is admirable.  It almost feels as if they are friends of yours.  Personally, I felt content as a child knowing that Frog and Toad were there for comfort if I was not feeling it at home.

A child in foster care may also feel a similar emptiness as a child that is raised in a single-parent household.  Frog and Toad Are Friends would too be a great series for that particular type of child, as would Hansel and Gretel.  A popular theme which existed in the Brothers Grimm fairytales was child abandonment.  Foster children may often get that often feeling of neglect that can be identified when reading Hansel and Gretel, as they too were abandoned by their father and step-mother.  This is not the only reason why this particular type of child would receive gratification from this story.  Hansel and Gretel is an adventurous story of two young children that must fend for themselves in pursue of food and shelter.  When they come to a house made out of candy and gingerbread, they find all that they have been denied, as well as a saving grace for the reason in which they were abandoned in the first place.  They then run into trouble when they encounter a witch that wants to turn them into supper.  The story is exciting and surprisingly it has a happy ending, locating their father who wanted them after all and discovering riches in Gretel’s apron.

A child in foster care reading this story will most likely identify with the characters.  Having felt abandoned themselves, children will already have schemata before indulging in the reading.  They will also be “rooting” for Hansel and Gretel, thus receiving a sense of satisfaction when in fact the children come out of that terrible situation with pearls, jewels, and their father.  This story can give these children a moment to escape, possibly even giving them hope that they too will one day have their happy ending, just as Hansel and Gretel did.

Who does not enjoy a happy ending, especially when a character’s hardships are relatable?  However, what if the child has never felt any grief, or experienced any hardships?  These children would be recognized as purely common.  They too would find enjoyment from the same stories read by those with single parents or children in foster care, but particular schemata will influence a reader’s specific comprehension of the messages portrayed.  It is agreeable that “normal” children or children that are eager to read exciting texts, would most likely find gratification in a story such as The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood.  Robin Hood is an exciting character; honorable, heroic, funny, giving and loyal.  Yet, Robin Hood is still known at a trouble-causing bandit; the outlaw of Sherwood Forest who defended the poor.  According to the Zipes text, the stories reach many different social classes and age groups (page 461).  Robin Hood stories are adventurous, and romantic; he is a character that many children would like to impersonate, as the readings will trigger excitement and imagination.  Stories such as those with a character like Robin Hood have the ability to reach the common child; children that do not have as many worries as the other types of children mentioned.  All the common child looks for is adventure during their stages of innocence.

By applying the theory of schemata to the idea of matching a certain type of children with a particular story, we can begin to understand how information is interpreted based on prior knowledge, as well as experiences.  In reference to the lecture from my class, I must agree that the appropriate literature for children will have an enormous amount of influence on the way in which they view themselves and the world.  It will also influence the choices that a child will make presently, as well as in the future.  Literature and experience go hand-in-hand, thus emphasizing the importance of our schemata.

My explanation of schemata:

I had hoped I was utilizing schemata in the correct context.  I will explain to you what I believe the meaning of schemata is.

After reading in the Nodelman text as well as from a few sources on the internet, I decided that schemata was more of philosophical and or psychological understandings.  Children (in this case) possess a certain schemata based on experience.  I see schemata as a way of viewing the world as a result of something a child may have experienced.  I also see it as a way of looking at the reasoning behind a child’s cognitive process.

For example, a child of innocence may get something different out of a story like “Hansel and Gretal” than let’s say an orphan child would.  A child of innocence may view the story as adventurous, focusing on the fight to survive against the witch, or the excitement of the candy house even.

An orphan child may hone in on the fact that Hansel and Gretal were abandoned.  It may reach this particular child on another level (possibly emotionally) due to the experience he or she may have.  In other words, the story could “hit home” for them, so to speak.  Therefore, I referred to schemata being as a response that a child may have to a story.  I was arguing that schemata is heavily influenced by a child’s life experiences.  I then applied these ideas to my reasoning behind why I choose each story for each particular child.