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Baylor University Leads Coalition to Aid Parents and Professionals in Meeting Children's Needs

July 30, 2010

News Joyce NunerBaylor University, Klaras Center Early Childhood Intervention and Smart Start Childcare Association will send a team of four people to be trained in the Touchpoints® approach -- designed to help parents and professionals meet the needs of young children -- in Austin in late September.

Leading the training will be pediatrician and author Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, formerly of Waco and now of Boston, who mapped stages in children's emotional and behavioral development in his books, including Touchpoints: Birth to Three. His approach is designed to help parents and professionals understand and respond to such stages as "the energy sink" at 3 weeks of age; the "No!" stage at approximately age 2; and the "Why?" stage at about age 3.

During stages that can try parents' patience, "it's empowering for them to know the behavior is normal and be able to say, 'Oh, it's not me,'" said Dr. Joyce Nuner, assistant professor of child and family studies in Baylor's department of family and consumer sciences, College of Arts and Sciences.

Baylor's academic focus in child and family studies is the leader in the Waco Touchpoints® Coalition, formed in January 2008. Two local foundations and two local agencies contributed a total $38,000 for the training, said Nuner, coordinator of the Waco Touchpoints® effort.

The training will be based on Brazelton's work at Children's Hospital Boston and around the world. Through his research, he discovered that when health care, social service and early care and education professionals partner with parents, children enjoy better outcomes in health, education and emotional well-being.

Nuner said individuals from diverse agencies and organizations are involved, including AVANCE, Baylor department of family and consumer sciences, Baylor Piper Center for Family Studies and Child Development, Education Service Center Region 12, Heart of Texas Workforce Board, Heart of Texas Workforce Childcare Services, Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center, Klaras Center Early Childhood Intervention, Little People's Learning Center, McLennan Community College, Rapoport Academy, Smart Start Childcare Association, Talitha Koum Institute, Waco Early Head Start, Waco Foundation, Waco Independent School District and several private practice physicians and mental health professionals.

"They have said, 'We want to have a unified approach,'" Nuner said. "The training helps us to have a common language and gives us tools to empower parents and to help them feel confident in the knowledge that they are the expert about their child."

"With Touchpoints®, you build on the assumption that parents want what's best for their child," she said. "But some just may not have all the tools. Our job is to learn to effectively listen to parents and learn to ask the right questions. We want to build on the strengths of the parent."

It is important to know that babies and children may regress briefly before reaching a milestone.

"Their sleeping or eating patterns may change, which can be frustrating to parents, but their children are putting all their energy into the developmental milestone," Nuner said.

After a week's training, the trainees will return and share what they have learned with others in Waco.

"The more teams you train, the more people you have who can change the community," Nuner said.

Donors for the training are the Cooper Foundation, Klaras Center Early Childhood Intervention Center, Heart of Texas Workforce Board, Waco Foundation and Talitha Koum Institute.

Meghan Becker, Baylor's assistant director for resident learning, first-year programs and apartments, learned about the Waco effort from the director of Baylor's Piper Center for Family Studies and Child Development. Becker takes her 3-year-old, Sarah, for day care at the center, a coalition partner.

Becker read one of Brazelton's books when her first child, Ellie, now 7, was born.

"I fell in love with it," Becker said. "It doesn't give you all the worst-case scenarios. It helps you understand things to watch for and expect, to know what's normal instead of 'This is what you're doing wrong.' I think a lot of parenting books give you a prescription to panic.

"Knowing what to expect puts you at ease. It helps you cope and gives you a variety of options to cope that seem very natural, not forced."

"The thought of Touchpoints® coming to Waco, knowing that we have people committed to making our community better, is outstanding."

TOUCHPOINTS® Stages

Prenatal: The Ideal Baby

Newborn: The Real Baby

3 weeks: The Energy Sink

6-8 weeks: The Rewarding Baby

4 months: Looking Outward

7 months: Up at Night

9 months: The Pointer

12 months: The Walker

15 months: The Clinger

18 months: Rebel with a Cause

2 Years: Getting to "No!"

3 Years: "Why?"

For more information about Waco Touchpoints' Coalition, contact Nuner at (254) 710-6263.