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Raising Toddler Twins

Raising Toddler Twins

Having kids is a wonderful experience. It can also be quite exhaustive, especially if you are dealing with twins! Twins usually require much more attention and energy than regular siblings. This is normal since you’re dealing with two children of the same age at the same time. That can be a handful sometimes!  When you have toddler twins it’s normal that you have a lot to take care of. Everything is doubled. Parents are often concerned about how to treat their twins, should they treat them differently, equally, dress them the same or different?

How are twins different than singletons?
As toddlers there’s a lot going on with children’s development. They start developing words and sentences. Start playing with other children and by the end of toddlerhood will be starting preschool. Twins tend to develop slightly different than regular siblings. They may be delayed in their language skills. This can be more prevalent in identical twins than fraternal twins. However, this difference disappears by the time children are 5 years old once they start preschool and kindergarten. Although the explicit reasons as to why this happens haven’t been identified, there is speculation that this may be due to the amount of verbal interaction they get with their parents. Research has shown that mother’s verbal interaction with each twin plays an important role in their language development.

There is usually a more dominant twin from the pair who tends to be the one more advanced socially and verbally. Twins also tend to play together more than other siblings. As a result, they may have less social interaction with other children or adults. This may also account for delayed language acquisition. Toddler twins are even known to develop their own “secret language” among themselves made up of simplified sounds and words. This behavior is quite normal for twins. These language distortions disappear as twins begin to spend more time with other children and grownups as they would in preschool. Toddler twins may also have more conduct problems than singletons which could be caused by a need for attention or frustration caused by their language delay.

What you can do:

  • Try to give individual attention to each child. Research has shown that parents tend to have less one-on-one interaction and less verbal exchanges with each individual twin than other siblings. Make sure to spend enough time with each child to help foster his/her language and social skills. What is important is how much speech interaction each twin receives individually.
  • Remember that each twin is a unique person. While they may have a lot in common, any parent who has twins will tell you how different their personality and interests are. Whether you want them to be alike or different this will predominantly decided by the twins themselves. Make sure you respect their individual differences as well as their similarities.
  • Offer enough social interaction with other children. While twins do tend to play together more than with other children don’t panic on forcing them to interact with other children. Studies have shown that the close relationship twins share does not interfere with their relationships with other children at school. Twins have even been reported to be less selfish and friendlier at school. Make sure you provide your twins with the normal range of social experiences for their age.
  • Spousal and family support. It can be difficult to divide your attention between two children of the same age at the same time. Try to provide each twin with some undivided exclusive attention with each parent or with close family members like a grandparent. Remember that mothers and fathers play important and unique roles in their child’s development. Fathers’ play time is just as important as mothers’ care and attention.

                                                   

Separate or Same Classroom?

 

The daunting question as children start to enter preschool. Should we keep them in the same classroom because they are so close? Or should we separate them so they can be independent? Unfortunately the answer is not clear cut. What we do know is that placing twins in different classes is associated with better form of speech and stopping stuttering. However, like all children each pair of twins are different and within each pair each twin is a unique child. With that in mind, whether to separate or place in the same classroom should be handled on a case-by-case basis depending on the children’s needs and personalities.

Reference
Lytton, H. & Gallagher, L. (2002). Parenting twins and the genetics of parenting. Handbook of Parenting: Children and Parenting. M. H. Bornstein (Eds). London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

This article as features in Arabic on Supermama

Photo from  Michaela Spodniakova

Empathy and Mirror Neurons

Amazing video on how Mirror Neurons are such an important aspect in our life and development.  From babies modeling their parents, a toddler learning from observation, how it teaches us empathy and how we can spread that empathy to the world. The results of genetic studies that have proven that the 6.8 billion inhabitants of the world come from 2 humans “genetic Adam and Eve“.

Check out this post for ideas on how Mirror Neurons contribute to your baby’s development: Having Fun With Your Newborn

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7AWnfFRc7g&feature=player_embedded#!]

New Findings On Autism

New Findings On Autism

Autism is a neural disorder that is characterized by impaired social skills and communication. It is a part of a broader condition Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) which also includes Asperger Syndrome and Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD-NOS).

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 110 children born today is autistic.

In August 2011, Time magazine ran two interesting stories on new findings regarding Autism. One story For Siblings of Autistic Kids, Risk Is Far Higher Than Thought by Bonnie Rochman covered a study conducted by University of California, Davis (UCD) Mind Institute investigated the risk of an infant with an older sibling with Autism. Researcher Sally Ozonoff found that among 664 children that were monitored in the U.S. and Canada the risk of the disorder was approximately 19 percent, significantly higher than previous beliefs of 3-10 percent.

The study showed that infant male siblings were 3 times more likely to have autism than younger girl siblings. Moreover, younger siblings with more than one older sibling with autism were almost 1.5 times more likely to have autism than those with only one older autistic sibling.

The study followed infants’ development beginning at 6-8 months till they reached 36 months, at which time they were tested for autism. Of the 664 children, 54 were diagnosed with autism and 78 were diagnosed with PDD-NOS.

The study addresses the questions many parents of autistic children have “What is the risk of my younger child being autistic?“. However, these findings should not scare parents but to make them more aware. It also highlights the importance of closely monitoring younger siblings of autistic children for early signs of autism.

The other article Autism’s Lone Wolfby Judith Warner covered interesting findings in a study by Simon Baron-Cohen et al., one of the founders in the field and director of the Autism Research Center at the University of Cambridge. Baron-Cohen and team hypothesized that an area that included large number of “systemizers” (people who tend to focus on controlling and building systems and how they work) might lead to a higher prevalence of Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC) in their children. This stems from Baron-Cohen’s idea that systamizing, deficits in empathy or the capacity to experience feelings being experienced by another person, existed in Autistic people and with a lesser degree in many of their relatives. His theory was that this brain type would be common in a population that included large clusters of people with very strong science, tech or math skills.

The team investigated if ASC was more common in the (Information Technology) IT region of Eindhoven in the Netherlands than in other areas (Haarlem and Utrecht) of similar size and socioeconomic profiles that do not include similar numbers of IT companies or workers. Eindhoven includes many high end IT facilities including Eindhoven University of Technology, High Tech Campus Eindhoven which includes companies like Phillips, ASML and IBM.

Diagnostic information on  62,505 children was investigated. As the team predicted ASC seemed significanlty more prevalent in the Eindhoven region (229 per 10,000) compared to findings in Utrecht (57 per 10,00) and Haarelm (84 per 10,000). The study cautions that more follow-up research is needed to rule out factors like the possibility of increased awareness about autism in Eindhoven. Accorrding to the article “Baron-Cohen also warns strongly against drawing simple conclusions about who should or shouldn’t marry whom”.

These findings are a major step in helping us understand more about autism and it’s causes.

For Concerned Parents

Below is a list from Early Signs Inc. on red flags of Autism Spectrum Disorder to watch out for in your baby.

Impairment in Social Interaction:

  • Lack of appropriate eye gaze
  • Lack of warm, joyful expressions
  • Lack of sharing interest or enjoyment
  • Lack of response to name

Impairment in Communication:

  • Lack of showing gestures
  • Lack of coordination of nonverbal communication
  • Unusual prosody (little variation in pitch, odd intonation, irregular rhythm,
    unusual voice quality)

Repetitive Behaviors & Restricted Interests:

  • Repetitive movements with objects
  • Repetitive movements or posturing of body, arms, hands, or fingers

More information on early signs and symptoms is available at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Autism Speaks Early Signs page.

Reading On Autism
Autism Spectrum Disorders by Chantal Sicile-Kira 
“Was the recipient of the 2005 Autism Society of America’s Outstanding Literary Book of the Year Award. A supportive and personal book that includes a detailed resource section. Practical and informative, straightforward and easy to read, the facts are illustrated throughout with quotes from people who have autism, and stories of parents’ experiences and professionals’ opinions. Geared towards the general public as well as parents and professionals, Autism Spectrum Disorders has been acclaimed as a highly accessible book by experts in the field and has become “the” handbook on autism.”
” Focuses on the challenge posed by the isolated child to teachers and classmates alike in the unique community of the classroom. It is the dramatic story of Jason-the loner and outsider-and of his ultimate triumph and homecoming into the society of his classmates. As we follow Jason’s struggle, we see that the classroom is indeed the crucible within which the young discover themselves and learn to confront new problems in their daily experience.”

The Marshmallow Test

The Stanford Marshmallow Test was conducted in 1972 by psychologist Walter Mischel of Standford University. The purpose of the experiment was to study when the control of deferred gratification, the ability to wait in order to obtain something that one wants, develops in children.

Each child was placed in a room with no distractions with just a table, chair and a treat (the marshmallow) and explained the rules. The children could eat the marshmallow if they wanted but were promised if they waited and didn’t eat it for 15 minutes they would get another marshmallow as well. Children developed self distracting methods like counting, covering their eyes or kicking the desk.

The outcome of the study showed that age does determine the development of deferred gratification. Furthermore, follow-up studies showed that children who had better impulse control “were described more than 10 years later by their parents as adolescents who were significantly more competent”

This explains a lot to parents about why their toddlers seem so emotional and are prone to tantrums. Another interesting fact is that the part of the brain in charge of impulse control is located in the frontal lobes, which isn’t developed until children are 9 and continues to develop till the age of 21!

So, now that we understand why toddlers and preschoolers act this way. How can we help?

  • Give your baby a responsive and predictable environment. Your baby will learn that the environment is safe and her brain will focus on learning from new experiences.
  • Remove temptations. Now that we understand that some actions, like telling your toddler over and over again not to touch the vase yet she still runs over to touch it every time, just can’t be controlled. You can make life easier for your child and yourself by removing tempting objects from your child’s reach to minimize conflict situations.
  • Give your toddler independence and words to express himself. During this age your toddler is developing a feeling of independence and autonomy. Allow him to do things for himself and help around the house to develop his sense of confidence.  Also, help him identify feelings and words that express those feelings  “I feel sad” “I’m angry he took my toy”. Use situations when your child is going through tough emotions to label those feelings “I know you feel sad…” “You look happy, I see a big smile on your face”. This will help your toddler express himself and help avoid frustration in already difficult situations.
  • Help your child figure out solutions. Once your child is able to communicate with you and other children you can help her solve conflict on her own. Take your child through these simple steps when a conflict arises. 1. What is the problem? 2. What does your child think would be a good solution? 3. Does this solution suit everyone? 4. If not? then what else do you propose? 5. Finally, go through with it.

You may need to act as a moderator in the beginning and help propose solutions, but by just going through the steps you’re giving your child a way to express herself,  regulate her frustrations and develop her problem solving skills. Pretty soon you’ll only be supervising this procedure and lending a hand once in a while your child handles things on her own.

  • Explain the consequences. By explaining to your child the reasons behind rules and the consequences for misbehavior you are telling him what to expect and what you expect quite clearly. This helps your child develop self-regulatory skills and learn to manage his own behavior.
  • Model self controlling behavior. This is a technique that can be used in almost anything, you basically can’t ask your child to behave a certain way if you are behaving the absolute opposite. If you expect your child to be calm and self controlling then you should be as well! Try to count to 5 before rushing to correct your child, make sure you are calm and you speak in a low tone. your child will follow your example!

Remember that any “mistakes” your child does are all part of her learning experience. Your role is to be a supportive and positive guide and assistant. Make sure you try approach situations with a positive attitude especially if your child is having a difficult moment.

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