Learning from Looking: Observation Skills Mary Claire Heffron, Ph.D. Margaret Rossoff, MFT Early Childhood Mental Health Program Children’s Hospital and Research Center, Oakland
Learning from Looking: Observation Skills • Objective: what you see and hear • Subjective: how you feel about your observations
Observation includes noticing the child, the parent, their relationship, the setting, what is said about the child • What people are doing • How people interact with each other • Responsive? Empathic? Caring? • How the environment is set up • Child- proof (safe)? Child-friendly (inviting)? • How people respond to you
Be aware of differences between you and the family that may bias your observations • Cultural practices and values • Age • Social class • Education
Be aware of your subjective reactions • How am I feeling? • Do I have judgments about what I observe? • Am I making assumptions? Examples • if an observed interaction is typical • motives behind behaviors • What are my biases? Sources of bias may be • personal history and experiences • professional training and beliefs • culture/values
Take it slow • Give yourself time to observe before you get involved in interventions • Talk to colleagues and supervisors about your reactions, particularly when you have strong feelings (positive or negative)
What is a red flag? Something that • Makes you uncomfortable • Deviates from what you expect of a child of this age • Suggests that the parent is in distress • Could be dangerous right now or harmful in the long run .
THE BLACK BOX Planning for next steps (explore) Question OBSERVE Hypothesize Assess (reflect) Rapid Action without sufficient reflection avoid urge to “hydroplane” (jumping to conclusions) Developed by the Consultation and Training Team, Children’s Hospital Oakland & Research Center, Oakland, Ca.
Looking for red flags • Using the handout on red flags and your own experience, note what you see in this video that raises concerns and questions.
What is a strength? • Indications of parent’s • awareness of child’s needs and feelings • empathy • availability to you • resourcefulness • connection to support system • self awareness
What is a strength? • Child’s capacities to • communicate and get attention • self-regulate, including self-soothing • play and interact
What is a strength? • Relationship qualities including • Sense of humor • Mutual enjoyment • Child’s appeal to parent • Contingent communication
Looking at the same video, note any strengths or potential strengths in the parent-child interaction, the child or the parent.
Note how red flags and strengths exist side by side. Think about how the strengths can provide an opening for talking about the needs of the child, parent, relationship and caregiving environment.
What is a screener? • A screener is a set of set of standardized questions that help identify areas of concern • Screening is a one time activity while assessment is an on-going activity
Screeners can be used by many people working with children including teachers, parents, pediatricians, nurses and social workers • Screeners rely on strong observational skills
The role of screening and observation tools • Allow you to collect data about the family you are working with and the population of your program(s) • Organize standard developmental expectations for you • Recommended screeners for Early Mental Health include:
Some recommended screeners for early mental health and wellness • Ages and Stages--Social Emotional • Devereux ( for preschool classrooms) • Itsea • Bitsea