As a new school year starts, teachers and parents are once again confronted with the reality that many children are not ready to start school and do not have adequate language skills to excel in school. These children come predominantly from poor backgrounds and are already far behind when they first enter school. It is estimated that a child from a poor home knows only 25% of the vocabulary that a child from a “privileged” background knows. To overcome this deficit in language and to promote school readiness among low-income children, the Bellevue Hospital in New York outpatient pediatric clinic pioneered what they call the VIP or (Video Interaction Project).
VIP takes advantage of the periodic checkups when parents bring their children to the hospital’s well childcare clinic for their routine healthcare visits. Before or after seeing the doctor, participating families have a session with a child development specialist who sits down with the parent and child, and observes their interactions, even recording some of it on tape. The specialist will later play back the video to the parent and give them suggestions and feedback about their own parent-child interactions, reinforcing the positive behavior and allowing time for self-reflection and growth.
Research shows that the VIP approach is having a positive effect on the low income families studied so far because the parent gets to actually see what their parenting looks like on tape, giving them a totally different perspective on their own parenting skills. Sometimes when you are doing things one way for a long time, it can be hard to see better alternatives. The advice given by the specialist is individualized, so the parents can know exactly what behavior to change.
The VIP project is designed to improve the language skills of the low-income children it serves. In addition to parent coaching, the VIP sessions also provide educational pamphlets for parents, age appropriate toys and books.The results of the first phase of study are now in showing that VIP was effective. On average, VIP parents were more responsive verbally to their children, read more to them, and generally improved their parenting skills compared to parents who did not participate.The research continues to find ways to give low-income children a better chance at school success. The doctors leading the study plan to do more research to see if VIP can be applied to other low-income groups. Not everyone is born knowing how to be a parent, and VIP seems like a great way to help parents improve the critical skills that might help. Let’s wish them tremendous success.
If you like hearing about what is new in the world of pediatrics, take a few moments to explore the hundreds of articles, book reviews, videos, and audio posts at www.docsmo.com. You’ll be glad you did. Until next time.
Written collaboratively by Catherine Wu and Paul Smolen M.D.