Give Kids the World

Many people walked by and did not stop to help when a young child was in distress. The little girl was in potential danger all by herself in this big world and campus. K.T. was walking on campus at our university when she noticed the child. The little girl was separated from her Mom when K.T. stopped to ask if she needed help. The little girl said her Mom parked her car in the garage that goes “round and round.” They searched parking garages together. They tried to call home, but no answer. After looking for what might have felt like an eternity, the child and her mother were reunited.

How many times do we look the other way when we might be able to be helpful to someone? It is good that people like K.T.  are willing stop and help. How can we help children?

·       We can give kids the world when we take time to become aware of their needs.

·       We can give kids the world when we show we care about them.

·       We can give kids the world when we help them when they are in danger.

The way she responded is inspirational. Let’s follow K.T.’s model and Give Kids the World.


Communication with Families

This semester in my early childhood assessment class we have a peer coaching program where parental communication is a focus. The university has created a High Impact Practice (HIP) Peer Coaching program that we are using to support college students in their development of effective parental communication around early childhood assessment and assessment practices.

Here are 7 tips for meaningful communication with children's parents when English is not their first language created by María Spinetti who is a Guest Blogger and a HIP Peer Coach.

1) Establish what language is best to communicate. Ask parents if they feel comfortable with English or if they would rather have the message translated. Even though it does not take long to translate an email to the parents, doing so demonstrates a willingness to accommodate their needs and helps them feel supported.

2) Establish what is the best way to communicate. Some cultures prefer face-to-face meetings, while others are more used to emails. Let the parents know how to best contact you.

3) Avoid using acronyms no matter how common you think they are. This can be hard depending on your job, but if the parent is translating the message, the acronym won’t translate.

4) Establish your job title and responsibilities. For jobs such as Child Life Specialist, chances are they have never heard of the position before and don’t know what to expect from you. To establish a healthy relationship, it is important to determine expectations from both ends. This doesn’t have to be long, but explicit enough for parents to understand your role.

5) Be succinct. For non-native English speakers it can be daunting or exhausting to read a very long paragraph in a language that they don’t speak very well.

6) When explaining your degree, a lot can be lost in translation. Some countries don’t have AA degrees or use words like major and minor. Similarly, when translating the word “bachelor’s”, there is a high chance that the new word won’t be accurate. I recommend sticking to more universal words such as university or college.

7) If you will be meeting, determine how you are going to communicate. Whether parents need to bring a translator, or your employer will provide one. Maybe they are comfortable enough speaking in English. Either way, sorting this out will allow them to be prepared for your meeting.


Message from today’s guest blogger:

My name is Maria Spinetti, I was born in Venezuela and moved to the United States when I was 18 years old. I’m currently an Early Childhood Education major at the University of Central Florida. Coming from a different culture, I have come to realize how nuances can be difficult to understand and how communication is dictated by cultural practices. Sincerely, Maria Spinetti

Guest Blogger M. Spinetti.png

Take Time

Effective communication does not just happen. We must take time to build trusting relationships with the families we serve. Here are some ways we can create meaningful relationships.  

1.     Introduce yourself. Share who you are with the family. Make first contact(s) positive.

2.     Use family friendly words to convey meaning. Avoid technical jargon.

3.     Tell the truth. Never lie or over-promise. Honesty is the basis of a trusting relationship.

4.     Maintain confidentiality. Keep sensitive information private. Do your best to control what you say and write when it comes to confidential information.  

5.     Put yourself in the family’s shoes. Taking the perspective of another can create empathy.

6.     Share resources. If you are aware of needs, you can share what you know and/or do research to locate resources for families.

7.     Build on family strengths (not deficits).

 Spend time each day connecting with parents and families. Checking in on a regular basis with parents can support the bond we have with the families we serve. Children benefit when we invest time in creating mutually beneficial partnerships.



If you travel for work, why not extend your trip for leisure?

Business + Leisure = Bleisure.

Last year we had 72 million people travel through our Orlando airport, according to the Orlando Sentinel. Many of those travelers were experiencing a happy case of bleisure. Here are some ideas for you in how to spend the leisure part of your bleisure if you are fortunate enough to travel to Orlando, Florida.

Winter Park

If you like to shop, then visit Park Avenue in Winter Park. The main street has over 100 boutiques. The oak trees will offer you plenty of shade as you meander your way to a quaint café for a bite to eat or sip of espresso. Throughout the year there are events that are sure to please you and your family. One of my family favorite events is the WUCF PBS Kids “Be My Neighbor Day” celebrating Mr. Fred Rogers who attended college in this area. 

Vero Beach

Many people who come to Orlando think of theme parks, but just a short drive from the hustle and bustle of the attractions is the Atlantic Ocean. Vero Beach is a great place to unwind after corporate travel. Vero Beach is a welcoming community with sandy beaches, palm trees, and a variety of bird species. If you come at the right time of the year, you might be able to catch a glimpse of loggerhead sea turtles laying their eggs on the beach. Nature tours are a great way to learn more about this unique ecosystem during your bleisure trip.

Vero Beach, Florida

Vero Beach, Florida

Space Coast

While you are at Vero Beach, head north up the road and experience the Space Coast of Florida. The Kennedy Space Center offers many things to see and do. Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, cruise ships, beaches, NASA, and rocket launches… oh my. Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezo’s Blue Origin are actively dominating the Space Coast scene.

Space Coast Florida

Space Coast Florida

U-pick Fruit Farm

The subtropical climate in central Florida is a paradise for fruit lovers. Discover citrus groves and pick your own fruit. Find a hydroponic garden and you might not even get dirty when you pick your own fresh fruit. “A Patch of Blue” is an urban hydroponic community farm near Winter Park that grows blueberries to pick during April and May, and strawberries from January to May.

Hydroponic U-pick Farm

Hydroponic U-pick Farm

Downtown Public Library

Since the 1960s, the Orlando Public Library has been located in downtown Orlando. The design of this building was called, "composition in monolithic concrete” by the architect John M. Johansen. The Orlando Public Library is the headquarters for the entire award winning Orange County Library System (OCLS). There are many branch library locations throughout the county. OCLS received the National Medal for Museum and Library Service which is the highest honor possible in America. When you visit this big urban library enjoy exploring all the floors. It wouldn’t be Orlando without a gift shop for you to take home a memorable souvenir before you leave. 

Bleisure is on the rise (Jain, 2018; Easen, 2017; Habtemariam, 2018; Lichy & McLeay, 2018). Wander your way around “City Beautiful” and make some great bleisure memories to last a lifetime. Treat yourself to extra time and play!!!


  1. Easen, N. (2017). Playing away. Buying Business Travel, 85, 28-31.
  2. Habtemariam, D. (2018). More than two-thirds of business travelers embrace bleisure. Business Travel News, 35(5), 6.
  3. Jain, A. (2018). Business, leisure or 'bleisure'?. Hotel Management, 233(6), 26-26.
  4. Lichy, J., & McLeay, F. (2018). Bleisure: Motivations and typologies. Journal of Travel & Tourism Marketing, 35(4), 517-530.

What's New?

Happy New Year! I hope your new year is off to a great start. In 2018, my colleagues and I will be putting the finishing touches on the new edition of the Assessment, Evaluation, and Programming System for Infants and Children (AEPS®).

We have been working on the AEPS®-3 since 2005 and I’m thrilled to see it going into production. Early childhood professionals can benefit from having a measure to assess young children that also links to a curriculum that could be used during play and routines. The AEPS®-3 Family component can be used to create positive and engaging partnerships with parents. Some of the most exciting new things in the AEPS®-3 are the early childhood math and reading areas.

Listen in to my iTunes show to hear a conversation with the pioneer of the AEPS® Dr. Diane Bricker (pictured below) talk about how she got started in our field, early childhood theoretical perspectives based on the work of Skinner and Piaget, and the influences and impact of her work in the area of early childhood assessment. 

If you would like professional development on the new AEPS®-3, start now. You can email me at to begin. Wishing you all the best in 2018!

Left row: Carmen Dionne (Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières), Amy Perkins (Brookes Publishing), Naomi Rahn (Wisconsin DOE), Diane Bricker (University of Oregon), that's me in green - Marisa Macy (University of Central Florida), and I-Ching Chen (Kent State University). Right row: Sarah Zerofsky (Brookes Publishing), Misti Waddell (University of Oregon),  Jennifer Grisham-Brown (University of Kentucky),  Joann Johnson (St. Cloud University), and Heather Shrestha (Brookes Publishing)

Left row: Carmen Dionne (Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières), Amy Perkins (Brookes Publishing), Naomi Rahn (Wisconsin DOE), Diane Bricker (University of Oregon), that's me in green - Marisa Macy (University of Central Florida), and I-Ching Chen (Kent State University). Right row: Sarah Zerofsky (Brookes Publishing), Misti Waddell (University of Oregon),  Jennifer Grisham-Brown (University of Kentucky),  Joann Johnson (St. Cloud University), and Heather Shrestha (Brookes Publishing)


Below is a PDF of our “Sneak Preview” my co-authors and I presented at a national conference.

Car Seats, Strollers, and Child-size Suitcases...oh my!

Families traveling with young children have many considerations to make when going on a journey. I was traveling recently and noticed a family next to me struggling to get through airport security due to all the extra objects needed when traveling with small children. In addition to all the adult things they brought for the trip, they had: a car seat for each child, one stroller, 2 child-size suitcases, and a diaper bag. Many of the contents in the diaper bag had to be removed because they contained liquid. We were on the same plane and again I saw how challenging it was for the family boarding the plane. It is no wonder that many parents choose to stay home and avoid travel because of the hassle involved in moving a family from point A to point B.

On the Go

On the Go

The Dean of the Rosen College of Hospitality Management at the University of Central Florida, Dr. Pizam, delineates travel from tourism. He says that travel is moving people from one place to another, whereas tourism represents businesses engaged in providing goods and services to tourists (who are people traveling to places outside their homes and usual settings). Families are a unique segment of the travel and tourism industries and may need different things compared to people traveling without children.

There are so many benefits to family travel and tourism. Relationship therapy is one of them. Family functioning may improve when a family has the opportunity to go on a vacation together. Enabling access to travel and tourism opens doors for young children and their families.

Source: Pizam, A. (2009, June). What is the hospitality industry and how does it differ from the tourism and travel industries? International Journal of Hospitality Management. pp. 183-184.

What Not to Ask

There is an art to asking parents questions. What not to ask parents may be just as important as what to ask.

“Can you be here at 1:30pm on Monday for our appointment to talk about your child?”

 “What worries you about your child?”

These are some of the many questions parents get asked.

Recently, I had a chance to chat with Dr. Frances Page Glascoe on my iTunes show about her work with parents and professionals. One of the things she shared was how to use time efficiently when interviewing parents about their children during pediatric encounters. Dr. Glascoe talked about how to use different tools to gather information prior to the parent/professional visit. This could help avoid the oh, by the way and door knob concerns at the end of an interview when the time is up.

Health communication literature has a well-known study called the “3-Min. Interview.” Researchers studied encounters between healthcare providers and patients. They found that if the professional interrupted the patient within the first 3 minutes of the encounter, the patient was less likely to give information that would lead to an accurate diagnosis and treatment.

Dr. Glascoe cautioned the use of the word, “worry.” For example, is there anything that worries you about your child? This could be a loaded word that parents may have difficulty addressing. Words and methods for communicating with parents may have a significant impact on service quality.

Check out the podcast to hear Dr. Glascoe talk about facilitating effective communication with parents and much more.

Dr. Frances Page Glascoe

Dr. Frances Page Glascoe

Parental Concerns

Many parents do not know where to turn when they are concerned about their child’s development. In one community I lived in, the lead agency placed ongoing advertisements in the local newspaper that they were conducting a free screening fair the third Friday of every month at the local library. Parents with concerns about their child could visit the library that day and meet a specialist who would conduct a developmental screening during a play-based assessment, as well as have the parent complete a questionnaire about their child’s growth and development. The screening is at no cost to the family or parent(s). Each community has their own way of doing what the law calls, “Child Find.” Community awareness and developmental-behavioral screening assessments are required in order to address parental concerns.

If you are a parent, here are some questions to consider:

Is there anything about my child that concerns me?

What do I hope to find out from the screening assessment?

How would I describe my child to a professional who is unfamiliar with my child or family?

How does my child communicate?

How does my child play?

How does my child participate in routines?

How does my child perform self-help tasks like washing hands, feeding, toileting, etc.?

How does my child use her small and large muscles? 

How does my child interact with familiar and unfamiliar adults?

How does my child interact with familiar and unfamiliar peers?

What are my child’s strengths?

What are some of my child’s characteristics that make me smile or laugh?

What are the best ways to communicate follow up information with me? Email, phone, text, face-to-face meetings, etc.? Do I need an interpreter?


If you would like more information about screening, contact Dr. Macy and/or check out this book:

Bricker, D., Macy, M., Squires, J., & Marks, K. (2013). Developmental screening in your community: An integrated approach for connecting children with services. Paul H Brookes Publishing, Baltimore, MD.

Screening Book.gif


I can make a proper French onion soup, or onion soup gratinée. Thank you, CIA! The main ingredients are simple—onions and chicken broth. Oh and sherry! The soup’s flavor comes from time. In order to develop the correct flavor, the onions need to cook slowly so they can become caramelized and acquire a deep rich color like espresso. Care needs to be taken so the onions don’t burn.

Gratinée means browned. The brown coloring comes from the onions being scraped on the pot with a wooden spoon for about an hour. Chicken (NOT beef) broth is poured over the onions once they have reached perfection.

Many cooks take a shortcut when making onion soup by using brown beef stock (for the color) instead of chicken stock. Shortcuts can save time. Shortcuts can sometimes make life easier. Shortcuts do not lead to optimal outcomes. 

A professor of mine at the University of Oregon once wrote an article about the tyranny of time. He showed how missed opportunities for students in special education can have a significant outcome on child well being and school success. The earlier we can address a child's needs can make a big difference for the child and his/her family.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) has a component called Child Find where it is the lead agency's responsibility to locate children eligible for services in a timely manner. No shortcuts, please. Early identification of a delay or disability is of paramount importance in the lives of little ones. Time matters in childhood. 

Macy making  onion soup gratinée at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA)

Macy making onion soup gratinée at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA)

Does Agency Status Matter?

The lead agency is Education for school age special education. However, the lead agency varies when it comes to special education for infants and toddlers (Part C of IDEA). Some states may have education, whereas other states may have social and/or health services. For example, the lead agency for infant and toddler services is Education in Oregon. If a child and family moved to New Mexico the lead agency is Health.

The eligibility criteria and federal funding awarded to each state for IDEA-Part C services varies from state to state in America. What does this mean for a family with a child who is eligible for early childhood intervention due to a risk, delay, or disability? It could mean that if they move to a different state they may experience differences in child/family services.

A recent study examined lead agency status in the United States and outlying territories. Specifically, Dr. Torres wanted to know if there is a functional relationship between a lead agency’s status for early intervention and the amount of per capita funding awarded to the state for services after controlling for population size. She found no statistically significant difference in lead agency status and funding. She did find that outlying territories experienced 14 times more funding when compared to the 50 states.  

Dr. Torres also wanted to know more about the criteria used for early intervention (Part C) eligibility determination. She used a formula by Dunst and Hamby (2004) to classify the restrictiveness of eligibility criteria as: (1) broad or liberal (includes environmental and/or biological risk), (2) moderate, (3) narrow (does NOT include environmental and/or biological risk). She found no statistically significant difference in lead agency status and criteria for defining the eligible population.

This study is one of the first of its kind to examine lead agency status as the independent variable. Research is an important endeavor that requires continued funding. A quote by the writer Zora Neale Hurston states, “Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.” Let us remain curious! Money to do research helps too!

Writer Zora Neale Hurston

Writer Zora Neale Hurston

Source: “Variability in State Lead Agency Eligibility Criteria and IDEA-Part C Per-Capita Budget Commitments: An Exploratory Analysis,” by Christina Torres (2017)


Carplay Diem

It is that time of year when people pile into cars and hit the open road to visit friends and family. 

Being stuck in a car for hours does not have to be boring, or an unpleasant experience. Seize the day to play and have fun on your road trip. Joe Desimone was a farmer who understood Carplay Diem and the need to enjoy the journey. Instead of bringing his fruits and vegetables to an outdoor market to sell in boring cardboard boxes, he essentially created a parade float showcasing the prized beauties from his farm. 

Pike Place Market proprietor, Joe DeSimone.

Pike Place Market proprietor, Joe DeSimone.

The voyage can be enjoyable for adults and kids with a little planning. Creating a way for the family to interact with one another in the car can be a challenge when individuals have their faces planted in their electronic devices. Here are some ideas for having an interactive road trip with your children:

Make a busy box for each child. Take a shoe box and have the child decorate their own entertainment box. Include objects they can manipulate with their hands easily and from their car seat. Consider objects where the child uses her/his imagination. Include novel things that has the potential to engage the child for an extended time period. 

Check out audio books the whole family can enjoy for free from the public library. A favorite author of ours is Kate DiCamillo. She writes interesting stories that can entertain both children and adults.

Make and take snacks the family can eat at rest areas or on the road. Have kids help pick out what to include in their snack bag. A carabiner can be attached to the back of the seat with his/her bag of goodies and/or other objects needed for the car trip.

Play games in the car. Word Association games are where someone in the car begins with a word. Others in the car say words associated with the original word.

A game of “I Spy with My Little Eye Something _____…” is where each person has a turn coming up with an object that others have to look for outside of the car.

The license plate game is a fun way for kids to learn about geography and states.

The 20 Questions game is where others in the car ask questions that can be answered with yes or no of the person who has thought of a person, place, or thing.

Here is a picture of my glamorous Mama going somewhere in her muscle car. We could make up a story about where she is going all dressed up. While in the car, pick another car on the road. Be sure everyone in the car has gotten a good look at it. Then make up stories about the people and/or the car.

My Mom circa 1969

My Mom circa 1969

Finally, the Going on a Picnic game gets players thinking and talking about what they would bring on a hypothetical picnic. Feel free to create a variation on one of these games, or the car can make up their own game(s).

This time when you travel by car with your family, make a positive memory each person can take with them into the future. The memories of interacting with one another cannot be replicated from playing Angry Birds for 16 hours. Play and have fun on your road trip by interacting with each other. Carplay Diem!