Act Early: concerns after the diagnosis

August 6, 2012 by admin

A serious boy gazes upwardAct Early is a series of posts by Utah’s Act Early ambassador, taking on hard questions about early intervention.

Today’s installment examines concerns that may continue after the diagnosis.

“I don’t want my child to be labeled!”

Sometimes parents fear that a diagnosis will bring a label that somehow limits their child’s full potential. They don’t want the label to become the child’s defining characteristic.   They fear their child may be teased for being “mentally retarded” or “autistic” or “handicapped.”

No parent wants their child to be reduced to a label that can only explain part of what their child is experiencing. Such labels ignore the rest of the child’s unique personality and gifts.

A parent’s concerns in this area are valid and should not be minimized or overlooked.  The disadvantages associated with labels are real.  It is important for parents to realize, however, that if their child has a developmental issue, it will remain, label or not.  Second, a child whose behaviors fall outside of the norm may be labeled anyway, but not so kindly, such as being called “lazy”, “dumb” or “defiant.”  It can be more helpful to a child if the underlying condition receives a medical or mental health label.

At its best, a diagnostic label is a guidepost to treatment and intervention services.  Diagnostic categories give definition to a child’s challenges and create a pathway to effective treatment.  If a provider does not know what a child has, they cannot select the appropriate treatment.  Whether or not parents choose to share that “label” with others (including their child) is a separate issue.

A sometimes overlooked reason for obtaining a “label” is because sometimes services are only available if the child has received a diagnosis.  Thus, the diagnosis is key for access to treatment.

“If we start medication now, we’ll never be able to stop!”

Particularly when faced with a decision to start a child on medication, there is often the fear that once a regimen is started, it will be a regimen for a lifetime.  Parents are reluctant to have their child become “addicted” and may resist what they believe is a slippery slope to a lifetime of medications and adverse side effects.

Parents need to be aware this fear is a myth.  It is much more likely that a medication will be tried, adjusted, and even discontinued, depending on how the child responds to that medication.  If the medication does not produce the desired results, there will not be a valid reason to continue to use the medication.  It is rare that a medication could not be stopped for fear of the child being harmed; however there are protocols that some medications be withdrawn more slowly than others to prevent adverse effects.

The choice to use medication involves an ongoing dialogue between parent and provider, and the choice to stop using a medication or to reduce the levels of a medication also need to be discussed with one’s provider.  But starting a child on a medication is not a commitment to a lifetime regimen.

For a more complete analysis on making the decision to put a child on medication, see this exchange between a parent and physician related to starting a child on medication for Attention Deficit Disorder.

Dr. Tracy Golden

Dr. Tracy Golden

Earlier in this series:

Learning to recognize the need

When you disagree with your pediatrician

Dr. Tracy Golden is Utah’s  Act Early Ambassador for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) “Learn the Signs. Act Early” program. Its mission is to improve early identification practices for those providing services to very young children.  Golden received her Ph.D. in Social Work from the University of Utah and has a private clinical practice for teens and adults with High Functioning Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. She is also a staff member at the CPD.

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Research on play: Dads and moms both contribute to education success

March 9, 2012 by JoLynne Lyon

father and son at playgroundResults from a 15-year study out of  the Family, Consumer and Human Development Department at Utah State University show that the way parents play with their toddlers predicts their children’s academic success. These findings are getting national recognition. So far, stories have appeared in the TodayMoms blog, Education Week’s Early Years blog and Medical News Today –with more coverage likely to follow. Update: add Parents Magazine,’s Red-Hot Prenting blog, Modern Home Modern BabyKSL and the Deseret News to the list.

We’re proud to say that the researchers have ties to the Center for Persons with Disabilities. Kudos to Dr. Gina Cook, who works here at the CPD’s Interdisciplinary Training division. Congratulations also to Faculty Fellows Lisa Boyce and Lori Roggman, both of FCHD.

Here’s the press release:

15-Year Study Shows Positive Connection Between How Parents Play with Toddlers and Their Children’s Academic Success

  •  229 Children from Low-Income Families Across the Nation were Studied as Part of this Research
  • Mothers Do More Teaching With Their Child When the Biological Father is a Resident in the Home

 LOGAN, UT (March 6, 2012) – Results from a 15-year research project show that the ways in which fathers and mothers play with children at age two predicts their children’s future academic outcomes.

Among the highly stimulating activities parents engaged in that were shown to have a positive impact on children’s later academic performance are:

a mom and boy pull faces

  • Encouraging and engaging in pretend play
  • Presenting activities in an organized sequence of steps
  • Elaborating on the pictures, words, and actions in a book or on unique attributes of objects
  • Relating play activity or book text to the child’s experience

Since 1996, researchers from Utah State University’s department of Family, Consumer and Human Development (FCHD) have studied families enrolled in the “U.S. Early Head Start Research and Evaluation Project” to determine the range of influence early parent-child engagement has on later academic achievements.

“There has been extensive research done on the importance of early parent-child interactions on future educational experiences, but most have focused on the relationship with the mother,” said Gina Cook, FCHD research assistant professor. “Our study looked at the combined long-term impacts of both maternal and paternal interactions in those critical stages of early development, and discovered that children not only benefit from the interactions they have with their mothers, but also their fathers.”

Observations of mother-toddler and father-toddler interactions in 229 low-income families made at age 2 were examined in relation to child outcomes at age 3 and then again in the 5th grade. The researchers looked at two different family types, those with resident biological fathers and those without, and found that in both these family situations, children perform better academically when mothers teach more during play with their toddlers. When resident biological fathers teach during play with their toddlers, they make an additional positive contribution to their child’s 5th grade math and reading performance on top of the mother’s play, the child’s gender, and participation in the Early Head Start Program.

The study determined that these biological fathers weren’t actually stimulating their children’s brains more than the fathers in other family situations. Rather, the research indicates that in homes with both biological parents, the mother provided higher levels of cognitive stimulation with the toddlers, and those fathers contributed to later academic outcomes above and beyond mothers.

“Interestingly, when the biological father is living with the mother and child, mothers provide more cognitive stimulation to their toddlers, but it is the fathers in only these families who really add something more to their children’s early environments,” added Cook. “It is important for parents to engage with their children during the vital, early stages of brain development, because that early exposure to cognitive stimulation with both mothers and fathers can have a long-lasting and positive influence on the educational success of at-risk children.”

The FCHD department is part of the Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services at Utah State University. Results from this study will be published in an upcoming special issue on fathers in the Family Science journal.

About the College of Education and Human Services

 The Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services at Utah State University is committed to offering high quality graduate and undergraduate programs in education and human services that are innovative and widely accessible. The college is also dedicated to establishing and maintaining nationally visible research centers that advance knowledge and professional practices. For more information, visit   For press contacts, scroll down.

A father in army fatigues hugs his son

 Press Contact:

Jacob Moon

Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services Public Relations



Amanda Butterfield

Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services Public Relations




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April newsletter now available

April 30, 2010 by JoLynne Lyon

Parent-child play is good for development. Read all about it in the CPD's April NewsFlash.

Check out April’s NewsFlash, featuring the CPD’s multifaceted approach to autism and a fundraising campaign for the CPD’s new developmental playground, which will help provide support to the families of children with disabilities. We thank all conors and volunteers who have already contributed to this project and invite others to join in the effort.

Happy reading, and happy spring.

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Research Week recap

April 7, 2010 by JoLynne Lyon

Lori Roggman is the Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services' undergraduate research mentor of the year.

Congratulations to CPD faculty members and students who shared their work during Utah State University’s Research Week 2010.

Special recognition goes to Dr. Lori Roggman, the undergraduate research mentor of the year for the Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services.

Roggman leads the Natural Parenting team of graduate and undergraduate researchers. The team has incorporated the PICCOLO measurement of parenting into its research. PICCOLO is used for observing, tracking, and supporting parenting interactions that lead to positive child outcomes from infancy through preschool. It’s a project of the CPD’s Early Intervention Research Institute.

Students involved in CPD research or employed in CPD projects also presented their work during the Graduate Student Symposium and the Student Showcase.

Graduate presenters included:

Heather Mariger with additional authors Jon Whiting and Kim Rigley, Is Your Web Presence Accessible for Everyone? The Development and Evaluation of a Set of Institutional Indicators of Institution-Wide Web Accessibility, mentored by Dr. Cyndi Rowland;

Kristen Kelley with additional author Joy S. Pollard, Comparison of Interactive Video Instruction and In Vivo Teacher Instruction on Acquisition and Generalization of Expressive Object Labeling in Children with Autism, mentored by Dr. Thomas Higbee;

Joy Pollard with additional author Alison M. Betz, A Script-fading Procedure to Promote Unscripted Bids for Joint Attention in Children with Autism, mentored by Dr. Thomas Higbee;

Tyra Sellers and Katie Snyder, Using Progressive-Ratio Schedules to Validate Results of Preference Assessments, mentored by Dr. Thomas Higbee;

Tyra Sellers (main author; Dr. Andrew Samaha was an additional author), Using Progressive-Ratio Schedules to Validate Results of Preference Assessments, mentored by Dr. Sarah Bloom;

Katie Snyder, Evaluation of a Video-based Preference Assessment for Children with Autism, mentored by Dr. Thomas Higbee.

Undergraduate presenters included:

Daniel Roberts presents during Research Week at Utah State University.

Tina Peck and Daniel Roberts, Promoting Employment Opportunities for Young Adults with Developmental Disabilities in Cache County, mentored by Dr. Judith Holt;

Allisa Blackburn and Jessica Shaw,The Relationship among Income, Education, Maternal Language  Input, and Maternal Book-Sharing Practices in Wordless and Printed Book Contexts, mentored by Sandra Gillam and Dr. Lisa Boyce;

Kara Stone and Mary Yates, Up to 3 Program, mentored by Judith Holt.

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How to make a rainbow fish

March 16, 2010 by JoLynne Lyon

I sat in for an hour or two at the Up to 3 classroom in the CPD, and though the activities were for little tykes, I learned some new things. For example, they have this great, no-mess method for applying glitter.

Find out how they do it as they make a rainbow fish.

Step 1: Color your fish.

Step 2: Paint with glue.

Step 3: Put your fish in an oatmeal can that has been cleaned out and partially filled with glitter. Seal and shake...

until there you go! Your fish is finished. You'll want to let it dry before you touch it, though.

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