|© UNICEF video|
|Dr. T. Berry Brazelton speaks about his ‘Touchpoints’ methodology at a special UNICEF consultation on Early Childhood Development in New York.|
By Eric Zuehlke
NEW YORK, USA, 5 February 2008 – Changing the way early childhood and parenting are viewed could be instrumental in helping to reach vulnerable children and strengthen the communities that support their development.
Last week, Dr. T. Berry Brazelton – acclaimed for his decades of pioneering efforts in early childhood development and paediatrics – visited UNICEF Headquarters in New York to discuss ‘Touchpoints’, his innovative model of parenting and child development.
The discussion was part of a four-day UNICEF Early Childhood Development Consultation for staff from UNICEF headquarters and regional offices. The organization is pursuing ways in which to integrate principles from Touchpoints into its programmes for young children. With Dr. Brazelton’s transformative approach, UNICEF hopes to implement a positive model of parenting, which is at the heart of nurturing and raising healthy children.
UNICEF will be working to integrate Touchpoints into parenting support programmes and into the training programmes of the health workers to help caregivers in building positive interactions with newborns and infants.
How ‘Touchpoints’ works
According to Dr. Brazelton, the key to Touchpoints is its focus on developmental ‘bursts’ of learning that occur in infants. The bursts are followed by a levelling off and a brief regression – and then children experience another burst.
“I can tell you within a week when each burst will happen. Isn’t that incredible?” said an enthusiastic Dr. Brazelton. “This is how predictable they are – and how critical they are – to an infant’s development.”
Dr. Brazelton notes that there are six bursts in the first year of life and four each year thereafter. It is during the regressions that the chances of abuse and neglect increase dramatically. At these times, reassurance from parents is needed most to ensure healthy cognitive, emotional and physical development.
Parents as experts
A sense of competence and self-awareness – both among parents and caregivers and within communities – is crucial to the healthy care of young children, improving the ability to provide care and decreasing the chances of abuse.
Touchpoints notes that a parent’s observations help to foster awareness of these developmental stages. The approach proposes that the parent and the community are the best experts on a child, and that parents shouldn’t have to fear bringing their children into health care centres.
Dr. Brazelton also considers the model capable of cutting the cost of preventive paediatric care. He emphasized that it can work across cultures and can be used to enhance parents’ participation in their children’s development.
“These are the times when parents really are wide open and are hungry for the kind of things you can give them,” said Dr. Brazelton.