Sensory and motor challenges can start very early in infancy, as can treatment for them. With babies we look at their ability to sustain joyful engagement with their caregivers. This is the work and play of babies. This sustained joyful engagement becomes the foundation for all future development and learning. Do you find it hard to engage and play with your baby? If so, there may be some underlying sensory challenges to blame.
Babies can be over and under responsive to sensory input. A baby who is over responsive presents as fussy and irritable. The baby cries during diaper changes and baths, pulls away from your touch, cannot sustain eye contact or mutual gaze with you, can be uncomfortable with movement experiences – being bounced or swung in the air and riding in cars. A baby who is under responsive is difficult to engage in that you cannot seem to gain their attention. They are indifferent to your touch, movement, and sounds. They may look around the room but not be able to find you.
Our Great Babies program looks at the foundations of engagement and helps parents modify the way they play with the baby to give the baby the just right sensory experiences in order for you to find joyful engagement with one another.
What should you look for to determine if engagement is a challenge? Here are some milestones of healthy engagement:
At 0-3 months
regulation and shared attention is obtained. This refers to the baby’s ability to be calm and alert, attentive to information from his social partner and available for interaction. Observations of shared attention include the following: the baby looks at his parent; the baby gazes, gestures and vocalizes sounds; the baby follows the parent’s focus of attention looking where the parent looks.
From 2-5 months
we want to see mutual engagement. This refers to the baby’s ability to engage in mutually enjoyable interactions with another person and his capacity to form relationships with his caretakers. Engagement is the ability of the baby to show pleasure, share emotions and reciprocate early interactions with their primary caregiver. Observations of engagement include the following: back and forth affective exchanges through cooing, smiling and gazing at the caregiver; the baby tunes in to the affect cues of the caregiver (smiles, frowns, tones of voice); responds to the interactions of the caregivers by smiling or gazing; initiates interactions with caregivers by smiling, cooing or crying; vocalizes as a part of reciprocal interactions; and by the later end of this stage the baby is able to initiate interactions using basic gestures (reaching out to Mommy).
At 4-10 months
a baby is able to communicate interactively in back and forth exchanges and increasingly initiate interactions with an intention or idea he wants to express. Observations at this stage include the following: the baby shares and indicates positive and negative affective states; participates in increased back and forth affective exchanges with the caregiver; tunes into and understands the intentions of others and expresses communicative intentions through facial expressions, vocalizations and gestures; consistently looks where mommy looks, looks when a toy is dropped on the floor, imitates actions and sounds (like bye-bye).
If your baby is showing a delay in any of these areas, we can help.