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Early Interactions Matter: Strategies for Increasing the Quality of Early Interactions to Enhance Life Long Social Development . Kristen Roorbach Jamison, M.T., Ph.D. Creating Connections to Shining Stars Virginia Beach – July 17, 2012.

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Early Interactions Matter:Strategies for Increasing the Quality of Early Interactions to Enhance Life Long Social Development

Kristen Roorbach Jamison, M.T., Ph.D.

Creating Connections to Shining Stars

Virginia Beach – July 17, 2012



Developmental growth and interactions
Developmental Growth and Interactions

  • Birth to five is a time of tremendous range and depth of development.

  • Synaptic pruning, myelination, and social learning processes create massive differences in behavior between relatively small time points.

  • How can this shape interaction?


Neuropsychology and development
Neuropsychology and Development

  • What we know:

    • From quite basic cognitive beginnings, infants learn a massive amount of information about the socialand physical world and how they interact.

    • This happens through:

      • Symbolic awareness

      • Habituation

      • Perceptual learning

      • Conditioning

      • Observational Learning



An 8 month pet scan
An 8 month PET scan



What drives this
What drives this?

  • INTERACTIONS

  • Lots of them.

  • With consistent, loving, responsive adults.







Developmental milestones
Developmental Milestones

  • What can they tell us about HOW we should interact???


Typical behavioral milestones
Typical Behavioral Milestones

By 3 Months:

  • Begins to develop a social smile

  • Enjoys playing with other people and may cry when playing stops

  • Becomes more expressive and communicates more with face and body

  • Imitates some movements and facial expressions

    By 7 Months:

  • Enjoys social play

  • Interested in mirror images

  • Responds to other people’s expressions of emotion and appears joyful often



By 12 months
By 12 Months

  • Shy or anxious with strangers

  • Cries when mother or father leaves

  • Enjoys imitating people in his play

  • Shows preferences for certain people/toys

  • Test parental responses to his behavior

  • May be fearful in some situations

  • Prefers mother and/or regular caregiver over others

  • Repeats sounds or gestures for attention

  • Finger-feeds himself or herself

  • Extends arm or leg to help with being dressed



Age 1 2
Age 1-2

  • Imitates behavior of others, especially adults and older children

  • More aware of him/herself as separate from others

  • More excited about company of other children

  • Demonstrates increasing independence

  • Begins to show defiant behavior

  • Separation anxiety increase toward midyear then fades


Age 2 3
Age 2-3

Self-regulation begins

May be rigid in views

Self-help skills emerge

Gender awareness

Empathy and compassion for others

Aggressive display of feelings and behaviors

Parallel to Associative Play



Age 3 4
Age 3-4

  • Friends become more interesting than adults

  • “False truth” play

  • Follow directions

  • Sharing toys

  • Initiating play, make-believe

  • Dramatic play

  • Associative Play


Age 4 5
Age 4-5

  • Moral reasoning emerges

  • Comparison with others

  • Strong friendships develop

  • Gender differences emerge in role play

  • Elaborate dramatic play

  • Cooperative Play



Red flags
Red Flags

  • Flat affect, lack of joy, little emotion

  • Eating or sleeping disruptions or issues

  • No interest in what others are doing

  • Overly hostile, angry without provocation

  • Rejects being touched or held


Red flags cont
Red Flags (cont.)

  • Avoids comforting attempts, even when it is in response to crying or an injury

  • Rejects or avoids play with peers

  • Unusually difficult to comfort

  • Unable to calm down after a reasonable time

  • Overly fearful, “on edge”

  • Does not turn to familiar adult for help

  • Sudden behavior changes



What do children need to be socially competent
What do children need to be socially competent?

  • Unconditional Love

  • Encouragement to express feelings with words

  • Practice Practice Practice

  • A caring adult can change the life of a child.



How does this change across age groups
How does this change across age groups?

  • How do you respect an infant’s emotional state?

  • What if expectations are different at home for a preschooler?

  • How can consistent positive consequences be used with a two year old?


How can we use this model across settings
How can we use this model across settings?

  • How can you help parents understand this as a home visitor?

  • How might cultural issues affect this formula?

  • What would this look like with an ESL student?


Take home tidbits
Take Home Tidbits

  • Positive early interactions can change development!

  • Interactions can (and should) be child-led too! (Be a good listener)

  • Be honest about feelings and emotions (with parents too!)

  • The earlier a child is exposed to warm, responsive interactions, the BETTER the outcome!

  • Play, play, play!


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