Blogging with Dr. Susan


Blogging with Dr. Susan

Robots and an MIT/Harvard study of toddlers


            Toddlers are loaded with intelligence and thinking power---here’s a Harvard and MIT study from the Robotics laboratory that tries to duplicate toddler thinking in reply to voce commands--- Students demonstrated how a robot toddler follows an age-appropriate voice command.  Using an artificial “toddler,” that has a Charlie-McCarthy- puppet head, a student sat at the computer tapping a voice command: “pick up the ball.”             

            The robot head and two hands are appealing- a nice smile is on the robot face and there are fists and fingers with knuckles, complete with a life-like skin color.  The robot has no other body parts, sitting in a typical toddler high chair with a tray.  There are dials, switches, lights, connected to no less than eleven computers bundled with tiny filaments and paraphernalia.

            A student taps in “Pick up the ball.”  Slowly, robot hands move across the tray and touch the ball with a cup-like motion.  Again, the student types the voice message, but the robot fails to perform and after the voice commands, “pick up the ball’ again, the robot hands slowly move. After a slow sweeping motion, the robot touches with the cuplike motion.   

            This is, for all you parents out there, what real flesh and blood toddlers do…they hear, react,  take a swipe, miss, as their brains change thinking patterns,  MIT’s robot toddler is a bit like the human toddler … who comes with voice activated information already listened to and stored in the both the body and brain.  Nice work kids! 

Raising Children in 2011


Trends in Parenting and Infant Thinking Skills


What is on the minds of moms and dads these days?   Contemporary families are cruising so fast that parents are giving their children heart murmurs, fast food bellies and pills!  What’s on the minds of Jim Garbarino, Mel Levine, Robert Brooks, and Dr. James Comer, to name my favorite and very prestigious researchers! 

Families wake up early to go on early morning car rides, buses, eating snacks in cars enroute.  Daily schedules are routine one day but in the dark the next!  Some days are the same and somedays “new.”  Children shift from high energy late evening play to weekend sleep states, and over tired, they alternate between kindness and meanness, copying their parents, adjusting to changes just like the grownups …..

There is an upside benefit to fast-paced living, which at least five minutes a day start a quick, but attentive conversation about activities and follow up with contact by cell phones notes in lunch boxes, and parental reminders.  Kids like this, as they feel included, apt to be slightly helpful at home, and have higher expectations about family schedules and a spirit of cooperation day to day! 

Dr. Robert Brooks, author of Raising Resilient talks about the strengths of resiliency in children at early ages.   He points out that resiliency for children as young as six or seven, is a skill that is positive and tested on a daily basis.  As he describes it, even 18 month-olds are more that ready to learn adaptation and cooperation as well as compliance with adult requests and commands.

On the negative side, if parents do not return the favor and model resiliencies at home, kids do not “use” their resilient skills, slipping back into old behaviors, ignoring authority, and refusing to follow school and family rules! 

Brooks says that ultimately the most dangerous outcome for children who do not have consistent parenting, is that children and youth actually forget family rules, communication skills and basic manners learned in infancy and childhood, disregarding social norms and behaviors, such as empathy, kindness or compassion toward others.

This is a bigger problem than what is currently understood concerning family dysfunction among teens and young adults who will be soon establishing long-term relationships, selecting spouses and entering into domestic responsibilities.  

Dr. James Comer, who is a founding father of Head Start, and Professor at the Edward Ziegler Yale Child Study Center, has spent forty years designing and testing curriculum in New York City schools, comments that home/ family and school must be integrated or there are negative learning effects on children, in spite of carefully constructed curricula. His educational vision is that family groups are the lifeblood of schools in neighborhoods, even as these schools are deteriorating and disappearing.

By James Garbarino’s count, (2001, The Families of Columbine,) younger and younger children are violent, less self-assured or compliant; few are able to do exceptional academic work either at school or at home.  Youth increasingly have lost respect for adult authority at home…. So much so, that public schools are adapting behavior and economic standards associated with private school educational strategies, where is it more likely that students adopt sportsmanship-like behaviors under supervision, adhere to adult guidance, value decades of a set school philosophy, uplifting mottos and generations of previous attendees that adhere to school traditions. 

According to Dr. James Garbarino, classroom team-building, discipline and dedicated leadership in a particular school, is now likely to be an accepted responsibility, but also a burden placed on teachers and school administrators.  He and his researchers at The Erikson Research Institute, Chicago, Illinois, now say that scheduling, transportation and the prolific number of working parents are dominate factors affecting how families manage daily life.

Trends in work and family paint a distraught picture of working adults who lack the confidence to control and supervise their children.  Garbarino notes parents often confront administrators, teachers, other students, and school personnel, defending their children and demanding special treatment for their children.  Overprotective adult defiance is forcing educators to take measures never before imagined. Traditional counseling methods do not seem to help. 

Teachers endure verbal abuse and students fabricate truths to their parents.  I describe a syndrome/ synonym for families when they deal with school issues as “over protective anxious and reflexive reactivity.”  But there is a bright side!  

Work and job opportunities are more compatible with exercise, food options and healthier life styles.  There is a hint that healthy financial security will improve at a more aggressive rate, as families act and think in terms of basic needs and less materialistic behavior.  Home and family environments will reflect togetherness, not unlike the frontier days.  Will the new version of frontier days be the new 21st Century of sharing and community?  Will families, neighborhood by neighborhood, be ready to travel and learn by going beyond their boundaries of home?   

High school and College students are already showing us the way….performing good deeds to disaster victims’ across the country and the globe!  Even better news is that

Today’s parents see no reason to repeat the parental habits of their own upbringing. 

One generation may follow another, but not in the same footprint.  Children may incorporate the values and beliefs of their parents at early ages, but there is so much information via media that the likelihood of copy-cat children is remote!  Do you really want your children turn out like you (#1), or do you feel every generation adapts to its times?  If you picked #2 you have the right idea! 

There is no one way, no right way to raise a child, who is unlike any other!

All children have unlocked potential.  Find the gifts your children possess and do it early in their lives!   How?  The gifts of children are found in the developmental genius of personality and temperament.   

Thanks for listening.

Dr. Susan Turben

Future DSM V Diagnostic Manual


What do the pros think a year later about recently-released Diagnostic DSM V manual  of diagnostics affecting future diagnosis and treatment of many disorders common in the development of children and youth?    

Here  is what a  colleague of mine at the Yale Child Study Center, Yale University School of Medicine, says about the debate that I referred to as,” a war of conflict and consternation” affecting the care and treatment of  young children, middle school agers, adolescents, teens and tweens, ….  

Dr. Brian Reichow:  I don’t think the diagnostic issue has become a war, yet, but there are worries, which Fred (Volkmar, MD., PhD, author and renowned expert on Autism) alluded to in his interview for NPR a little while back. I think to really look at the issue, one must go past the giving and getting of a diagnosis and look at what purpose the diagnosis is serving. For parents who have a child with problems, which sometimes they cannot explain, getting a diagnosis can be helpful, and lumping PDD-NOS and Asperger’s into an ASD category might help them secure better services for their child. However, for treating the child, a diagnosis is just a start, and one should not treat a diagnosis as much as the behaviors or conditions that need changing. Thus, the diagnosis should become less of an issue."

Thanks Brian