1. Study looks at how infants process their mothers’ responses

    February 4, 2018 by Ashley

    From the Cornell University press release:

    Babies are adept at getting what they need — including an education. New research shows that babies organize mothers’ verbal responses, which promotes more effective language instruction, and infant babbling is the key.

    It’s long been known that babies modify their sounds to become more speech-like in response to feedback from their caregivers, and that they learn things have names by caregivers naming objects. But how do specific types of babbling elicit particular parental behavior?

    To answer this, the research team — Rachel Albert, assistant professor of psychology at Lebanon Valley College; Jennifer Schwade, senior lecturer in psychology at Cornell University; and Michael Goldstein, associate professor of psychology at Cornell University — recorded and recombined the vocalizations of 40 nine-month-olds and their mothers, using a “playback paradigm,” widely used in animal studies, to assess how specific forms of sounds and actions by infants influenced parental behavior.

    The research sessions were conducted in a playroom with toys. Infants were outfitted with denim overalls in which a wireless microphone was concealed. Sessions took place in Goldstein’s B.A.B.Y. Lab, which is outfitted with video cameras to record responses during live play.

    “We expected that mothers would respond more often when babbling was more mature, and they did,” said Goldstein. “The increased rate of response meant more language-learning opportunities for the baby. The mothers’ speech was also more likely to contain simplified, learnable information about linguistic structure and the objects around the baby. Thus, by varying the form and context of their vocalizations, infants influence maternal behavior and create social interactions that facilitate learning.”

    The researchers also found that mothers responded more often and more informatively to vocalizations directed at objects than those that were undirected.

    “We suspected this would be the case,” Albert said, “because the object the baby is looking at creates an opportunity for the mother to label it, so she’s more likely to respond with specific information than when a baby is babbling at nothing.”

    In this way, write the researchers, “the infant’s own vocalizations serve to structure social interactions in ways that facilitate learning. … These results contribute to a growing understanding of the role of social feedback in infant vocal learning, which stands in contrast to the historical view of prelinguistic vocalizations in which babbling was assumed to be motor practice, with no function in the development of communication and language.”

    The study sheds light on correlations between early babbling and later language and studies finding that babies with more advanced syllables in their babbling have more advanced speech and vocabulary when they’re older.

    “We think there may be a kind of feedback loop, where for example parents’ labeling objects and rewarding more advanced vocalizations by responding more frequently promotes word learning,” said Schwade.

    These results may help in understanding delayed vocal development in at-risk populations and those with hearing delays, Down syndrome and autism spectrum disorder. Fewer vocal interactions between children and caregivers, write the researchers, could “cascade into long-term differences in response expectancies, impacting language development over time as opportunities for learning from contingent parental responses are reduced.


  2. Study suggests parental sensitivity strong predictor of healthy infant-parent attachment

    January 31, 2018 by Ashley

    From the Universiteit van Amsterdam (UVA) press release:

    Researchers at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) are one step closer to understanding how infants become securely attached to their parents. In a new study published last month, the researchers show how parents’ level of sensitivity is an important predictor of infant-parent attachment, but also the degree to which they are attuned to their baby’s thoughts and feelings. This ability, known as mentalization, plays a crucial role in predicting infant-parent attachment.

    From an evolutionary perspective, babies attach to their parents for survival. A baby who is securely attached, experiences her parent as a safe haven and secure base. When a baby experiences stress, pain or other negative emotions, she will seek the support of a parent and will allow herself to be soothed. Moreover, a baby who is securely attached will feel free to observe and explore an environment in the vicinity of a parent. ‘There are strong differences in the quality of attachment between children, and these differences have in turn shown to be extremely important for understanding differences in the development and mental health of people’, says Moniek Zeegers, a PhD researcher at the UvA’s department of Child Development and Education. ‘Children who feel securely attached are, among other things, better at regulating their emotions, have higher self-esteem and exhibit less emotional and behavioural problems.”

    The researchers used a meta-analysis to test whether a link exists between parents’ tendency to read the thoughts and feelings of their baby and secure infant-parent attachment. The researchers also examined whether there is a connection between parents’ tendency to read the feelings of their baby and sensitive parenting behaviour.

    Previous studies have shown noticeable differences in the degree to which parents mentalize. Parents who do so consistently think about the autonomous emotions, thoughts, needs and preferences that could explain their baby’s behaviour. Zeegers: ‘For instance, a mentalizing parent sees which toy the baby prefers or whether a baby becomes overstimulated because of a game like hide and seek, or when a baby is inquisitive about a cat walking past. A parent who struggles to mentalize, shows an inability to correctly interpret the baby’s signals. The parent, for example, frequently projects her own anxieties or frustrations on the baby, or does not sufficiently take into account the child’s needs and preferences. Every parent sometimes misreads his or her baby’s signals, but when this overshadows interactions it can negatively impact the child’s development.’

    There are various reasons for misinterpreting a baby’s signals, such as a general difficulty in accepting that a baby has negative feelings, parental stress, or overestimating a baby’s skills. Moreover, the ability to mentalize also reveals the extent to which a parent is attached to his or her own parent. A parent who is insecurely attached has an increased risk of having difficulties with reading other people’s minds.

    On the basis of the meta-analysis, the researchers conclude that parents who frequently and adequately mentalize are better placed to appropriately react to a baby’s behaviour, which in turn predicts a higher chance for secure attachment. A parent’s ability to be attuned to the baby’s mind thus proves to be a strong predictor for a positive start to a child’s development.

    At the moment, the number of available interventions aimed at stimulating and/or changing parents’ ability to mentalize are limited, but nonetheless show promising results. The researchers therefore recommend that family therapy aimed at facilitating a secure attachment relationship between parent and infant should focus on behavioural change but also on strengthening parents’ ability to mentalize. Also, the current information material for new parents is strongly geared towards parental behaviour, but could have a greater focus on developing a parent’s general awareness of what their baby is thinking and feeling and how they can better perceive it.


  3. Study suggests young people with shared residency have fewer mental problems

    January 29, 2018 by Ashley

    From the Uni Research press release:

    Young people with shared residency after their parents’ divorce have fewer mental problems than young people with other residency arrangements.

    This was the conclusion researchers at RKBU Vest (Regional Centre for Child and Youth Mental Health and Child Welfare), Uni Research Health, arrived at when they compared the mental health of young people in different residency arrangements after a divorce.”

    Youth with shared residency after a divorce reported less mental issues than those living mostly with a single parent or in a stepfamily. Furthermore, we found that youths with joint residency did not have more mental problems than young people living with their two non-divorced parents, says Sondre Aasen Nilsen,” researcher at RKBU Vest who is one of the researchers behind the study.

    More young people with shared residency

    During the last ten years there has been a large increase in the number of parents who chose a shared residency scheme for their children after a divorce, where the child lives approximately as much with the mother as with the father. Several international studies show a correlation between this form of living and fewer mental problems among children with divorced parents, compared to those living mostly with the mother or the father.

    Shared residency in dispute

    Nevertheless, shared residency is in dispute and it has been argued that the constant move between two homes may impede the child’s adjustment after a divorce. The latest comprehensive study that examined adjustment in different residency arrangements after a divorce in Norway used data collected in 1997. “We have therefore lacked information about how young people adapt in different residency arrangements today, following the large increase in families who choose a shared residency scheme,” Nilsen says.

    The largest study in Norway

    In the “ung@hordaland” survey at RKBU Vest, about 7700 young people answered detailed questions about their parents’ divorce, the family’s financial resources, how and who they lived with after the divorce. Their mental health was also mapped. This is the largest Norwegian study that has examined young people’s adaptation in different residency arrangements after the parents’ divorce.

    This study is part of Sondre Aasen Nilsen’s PhD project in association with RKBU Vest, Uni Research Helse. The collaborating partner in the project is Save the Children Norway (Redd Barna), and the project is funded by Extrastiftelsen.


  4. Study finds students more engaged and attentive following outdoor lesson in nature

    January 27, 2018 by Ashley

    From the Frontiers press release:

    A study recently published in open-access journal Frontiers in Psychology has found that 9-10 year-old children are significantly more attentive and engaged with their schoolwork following an outdoor lesson in nature. Strikingly, this “nature effect” allowed teachers to teach uninterrupted for almost twice as long during a subsequent indoor lesson. The results suggest that outdoor lessons may be an inexpensive and convenient way to improve student engagement — a major factor in academic achievement.

    Scientists have known for a while that natural outdoor environments can have a variety of beneficial effects on people. People exposed to parks, trees or wildlife can experience benefits such as physical activity, stress reduction, rejuvenated attention and increased motivation. In children, studies have shown that even a view of greenery through a classroom window could have positive effects on students’ attention.

    However, many teachers may be reluctant to hold a lesson outdoors, as they might worry that it could overexcite the children, making it difficult for them to concentrate on their schoolwork back in the classroom. Ming Kuo, a scientist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and her colleagues set out to investigate this, and hypothesized that an outdoor lesson in nature would result in increased classroom engagement in indoor lessons held immediately afterwards.

    “We wanted to see if we could put the nature effect to work in a school setting,” says Kuo. “If you took a bunch of squirmy third-graders outdoors for lessons, would they show a benefit of having a lesson in nature, or would they just be bouncing off the walls afterward?”

    The researchers tested their hypothesis in third graders (9-10 years old) in a school in the Midwestern United States. Over a 10-week period, an experienced teacher held one lesson a week outdoors and a similar lesson in her regular classroom, and another, more skeptical teacher did the same. Their outdoor “classroom” was a grassy spot just outside the school, in view of a wooded area.

    After each outdoor or indoor lesson, the researchers measured how engaged the students were. They counted the number of times the teacher needed to redirect the attention of distracted students back to their schoolwork during the observation, using phrases such as “sit down” and “you need to be working.” The research team also asked an outside observer to look at photos taken of the class during the observation period and score the level of class engagement, without knowing whether the photos were taken after an indoor or outdoor lesson. The teachers also scored class engagement.

    The team’s results show that children were more engaged after the outdoor lessons in nature. Far from being overexcited and inattentive immediately after an outdoor lesson, students were significantly more attentive and engaged with their schoolwork. The number of times the teacher had to redirect a student’s attention to their work was roughly halved immediately after an outdoor lesson.

    “Our teachers were able to teach uninterrupted for almost twice as long at a time after the outdoor lesson,” says Kuo, “and we saw the nature effect with our skeptical teacher as well.”

    The researchers plan to do further work to see if the technique can work in other schools and for less experienced teachers. If so, regular outdoor lessons could be an inexpensive and convenient way for schools to enhance student engagement and performance. “We’re excited to discover a way to teach students and refresh their minds for the next lesson at the same time,” says Kuo. “Teachers can have their cake and eat it too.”


  5. Study suggests bilingualism may increase cognitive flexibility in kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)

    January 21, 2018 by Ashley

    From the McGill University press release:

    Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) often have a hard time switching gears from one task to another. But being bilingual may actually make it a bit easier for them to do so, according to a new study which was recently published in Child Development.

    “This is a novel and surprising finding,” says Prof. Aparna Nadig, the senior author of the paper, from the School of Communication Sciences and Disorders at McGill University. “Over the past 15 years there has been a significant debate in the field about whether there is a ‘bilingual advantage’ in terms of executive functions. Some researchers have argued convincingly that living as a bilingual person and having to switch languages unconsciously to respond to the linguistic context in which the communication is taking place increases cognitive flexibility. But no one has yet published research that clearly demonstrates that this advantage may also extend to children on the autism spectrum. And so it’s very exciting to find that it does.”

    The researchers arrived at this conclusion after comparing how easily 40 children between the ages of six and nine, with or without ASD, who were either monolingual or bilingual, were able to shift tasks in a computer-generated test. There were ten children in each category.

    Blue rabbits or red boats

    The children were initially asked to sort a single object appearing on a computer screen by colour (i.e. sort blue rabbits and red boats as being either red or blue) and were then asked to switch and sort the same objects instead by their shape (i.e. sort blue rabbits and red boats by shape regardless of their color).

    The researchers found that bilingual children with ASD performed significantly better when it came to the more complex part of the task-shifting test relative to children with ASD who were unilingual. It is a finding which has potentially far-reaching implications for the families of children with ASD.

    “It is critical to have more sound evidence for families to use when making important educational and child-rearing decisions, since they are often advised that exposing a child with ASD to more than one language will just worsen their language difficulties,” says Ana Maria Gonzalez-Barrero, the paper’s first author, and a recent McGill PhD graduate. “But there are an increasing number of families with children with ASD for whom using two or more languages is a common and valued practice and, as we know, in bilingual societies such as ours in Montreal, speaking only one language can be a significant obstacle in adulthood for employment, educational, and community opportunities.”

    Despite the small sample size, the researchers believe that the ‘bilingual advantage’ that they saw in children with ASD has highly significant implications and should be studied further. They plan to follow the children with ASD that they tested in this study over the next three-five years to see how they develop. The researchers want to see whether the bilingual advantage they observed in the lab may also be observed in daily life as the children age.


  6. Study suggests girls’ social camouflage skills may delay or prevent autism diagnosis

    January 17, 2018 by Ashley

    From the Children’s National Health System press release:

    On parent-reporting measures, girls with autism seem to struggle more than boys with performing routine tasks like getting up and dressed or making small talk, even when the study group is normalized to meet similar basic clinical diagnostic criteria across sexes. The findings add to the growing evidence that girls with autism may show symptoms differently than boys, and that some of the social difficulties experienced by females with autism may be masked during clinical assessments.

    The new study, led by researchers from the Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders at Children’s National Health System, was published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

    “Based on our research criteria, parents report that the girls in our study with autism seem to have a more difficult time with day-to-day skills than the boys,” says Allison Ratto, Ph.D., lead author of the study and a clinical psychologist within the Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders at Children’s National. “This could mean that girls who meet the same clinical criteria as boys actually are more severely affected by ongoing social and adaptive skill deficits that we don’t capture in current clinical measures, and that autistic girls, in general, may be camouflaging these types of autism deficits during direct assessments.”

    The study used an age-and IQ-matched sample of school-aged youth diagnosed with ASD to assess sex differences according to the standard clinical tests including the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) and the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R), as well as parent reported autistic traits and adaptive skills.

    “This study is one of the first to eliminate many of the variables that obscure how sex impacts presentation of autism traits and symptoms. Though today’s clinical tools do a really good job capturing boys at a young age, with a wide range of symptom severity, they do it less effectively for girls,” adds Lauren Kenworthy, Ph.D., director of the Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders, and another study contributor. “This is a crucial issue considering how much we know about the success of early interventions on long-term outcomes. We have to find better ways to identify girls with autism so we can ensure the best approaches reach all who need them as early as possible.”

    Specific evidence of women more effectively masking or camouflaging social and communication deficits is limited, but autistic self-advocates theorize that the unique social pressures and demands on girls at a young age may teach them to “blend in” and “get by,” including maintaining successful, brief social interactions.

    As a research partner of an $11.7 million Autism Center of Excellence (ACE) grant from the National Institutes of Health to the George Washington University Autism and Neurodevelopment Disorders Institute, the Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders at Children’s National will continue investigations into sex differences, and aims to develop self-reporting measures for adolescents and adults that better capture additional populations — including females and non-cisgender males.

    “We hope the ACE studies will help us better understand the diversity of the autism spectrum by allowing us to focus on the ways in which differences in sex and gender identity might influence the expression of autistic traits, thereby enabling us to make more accurate diagnoses,” Dr. Ratto concludes.


  7. Study suggests eating more foods with choline during pregnancy could boost baby’s brain

    January 12, 2018 by Ashley

    From the Cornell University press release:

    When expectant mothers consume sufficient amounts of the nutrient choline during pregnancy, their offspring gain enduring cognitive benefits, a new Cornell University study suggests.

    Choline — found in egg yolks, lean red meat, fish, poultry, legumes, nuts and cruciferous vegetables — has many functions, but this study focused on its role in prenatal brain development.

    The researchers, who published their findings online in The FASEB Journal, used a rigorous study design to show cognitive benefits in the offspring of pregnant women who daily consumed close to twice the currently recommended amount of choline during their last trimester.

    “In animal models using rodents, there’s widespread agreement that supplementing the maternal diet with additional amounts of this single nutrient has lifelong benefits on offspring cognitive function,” said Marie Caudill, professor of nutritional sciences and the study’s first author. “Our study provides some evidence that a similar result is found in humans.”

    The finding is important because choline is in high demand during pregnancy yet most women consume less than the recommended 450 milligrams per day.

    “Part of that is due to current dietary trends and practices,” said Richard Canfield, a developmental psychologist in the Division of Nutritional Sciences and the senior author of the study. “There are a lot of choline-rich foods that have a bad reputation these days,” he said. Eggs, for example, are high in cholesterol, and health professionals, including those in the government, have raised caution about pregnant women consuming undercooked eggs, which may deter women from eating them altogether, even though such risks are low for pasteurized or cooked eggs, Canfield said. Red meats are often avoided for their high saturated fat content, and liver is not commonly eaten, he added.

    Two previous studies by other research teams had mixed results after examining cognitive effects of maternal choline supplementation, perhaps due to study designs that were not tightly controlled, Caudill said.

    In this study, 26 women were randomly divided into two groups and all the women consumed exactly the same diet. Intake of choline and other nutrients were tightly controlled, which was important since the metabolism of choline and its functions can overlap with such nutrients as vitamin B12, folic acid and vitamin B6.

    “By ensuring that all the nutrients were provided in equal amounts, we could be confident that the differences in the infants resulted from their choline intake,” Caudill said. In this study, half the women received 480 mg/day of choline, slightly more than the adequate intake level, and the other half received 930 mg/day.

    Canfield and co-author Laura Muscalu, a lecturer in the Department of Psychology at Ithaca College, tested infant information processing speed and visuospatial memory at 4, 7, 10 and 13 months of age. They timed how long each infant took to look toward an image on the periphery of a computer screen, a measure of the time it takes for a cue to produce a motor response. The test has been shown to correlate with IQ in childhood. Also, research by Canfield and others shows that infants who demonstrate fast processing speeds when young typically continue to be fast as they age.

    While offspring in both groups showed cognitive benefits, information processing speeds were significantly faster for the group of expectant mothers who consumed 930 mg/day when compared with the group that took 480 mg/day over the same period.

    Though the study has a small sample, it suggests that current recommendations for daily choline intake may not be enough to produce optimal cognitive abilities in offspring, Canfield said. Current choline intake recommendations are based on amounts required to prevent liver dysfunction, and were extrapolated from studies done in men in part because no studies had investigated requirements during pregnancy.

    The study was funded by the Egg Nutrition Center, the Beef Checkoff, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Institute for the Social Sciences, the Bronfenbrenner Life Course Center, and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.


  8. Study suggests exercising at own pace boosts a child’s ability to learn

    January 6, 2018 by Ashley

    From the University of Stirling press release:

    A child’s attention and memory improves after exercise according to new research conducted with primary school pupils and supported by the Universities of Stirling and Edinburgh.

    Researchers found that pupils’ best responses to tests came after physical activity that was set at their own pace, as opposed to exhaustive exercise.

    The study is part of the BBC Learning’s Terrific Scientific campaign — designed to inspire schoolchildren to pursue a career in science — and part-funded by the University of Edinburgh and the Physiological Society.

    In the sixth investigation of the series, more than 11,000 school pupils across the UK conducted a scientific investigation to discover the impact of taking a short break from the classroom to complete a physical activity on their mood and cognitive abilities.

    The study was jointly led by Dr Colin Moran and Dr Naomi Brooks, of the University of Stirling’s Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport, and Dr Josie Booth of the University of Edinburgh’s Moray House School of Education.

    Dr Brooks explained: “Anecdotal evidence suggests that short breaks involving physical activity can boost concentration and happiness in pupils. While this is positive, the evidence is not conclusive and this is what we asked the children to help investigate.

    “Ultimately, we found that 15 minutes of self-paced exercise can significantly improve a child’s mood, attention and memory — enhancing their ability to learn.”

    A total of 11,613 children in the UK signed up to participate in the research — including 1,536 from Scotland — and they were asked to answer questions about how happy and awake they were feeling, before completing attention and memory tasks on a computer. Children completed the tasks both before and after they participated in each of three outdoor activities of varying intensities:

    · A bleep test: This was the most intense activity, where the children ran in time with bleeps, which got gradually quicker, until they felt close to exhaustion.

    · A run/walk activity: This was of intermediate intensity where the children ran or walked at a speed of their own choice for 15 minutes.

    · A control activity: This was the least intense activity where the children went outside to sit or stand for 15 minutes. This was used to compare whether physical activity had a greater impact than simply going outside.

    In total, more than 7,300 children provided information on at least one of the key measurements, related to mood and cognition, and participants completed 22,349 batches of computer tasks.

    Compared to the control, children reported feeling more awake after taking a break and doing exercise for a short time. Both the bleep test and the run/walk made participants feel more awake than the control activity, although they felt most awake after the run/walk.

    The children also said they felt better after doing the run/walk but reported no difference in the way they felt after completing the bleep test, compared to the control activity.

    Children responded quicker to the attention task after completing the run/walk, compared to the control and bleep test activities, and were better at controlling their responses after doing the run/walk and bleep test than they were after the control activity.


  9. Study provides insight into how infants learn to walk

    January 3, 2018 by Ashley

    From the Lancaster University press release:

    Ten-week-old babies can learn from practising walking months before they begin walking themselves say researchers.

    They gave the infants experience at “reflex walking” which is a primitive instinct in babies which disappears around 12 weeks of age.

    When held by an adult at a slightly forward angle, and with the soles of their feet touching a flat surface, the infants will reflexively walk by placing one foot in front of the other.

    Psychologists at Lancaster University gave this “reflex walking” experience to one half of a group of 10 week old infants, who took an average of 23 steps in 3 minutes.

    The other half of the group did not share in the experience of walking.

    The researchers showed film of human figures walking and crawling to both groups of infants as they sat on their mothers’ laps in a dimly lit room.

    They then measured how the infants responded to this visual information by recording electrical activity in their brains.

    Only the brains of the infants who had experienced “reflex walking” were able to recognise the same movement in the film of figures walking.

    Their response was more similar to that of older children learning to walk rather than babies from younger ages.

    The group of infants who had not practised “reflex walking” did not show this more mature brain activity but they may have recognised filmed crawling movement.

    Psychologist Professor Vincent Reid said the research in Neuropsychologia showed a link between perceiving an action and carrying out that action even in early infancy.

    “This result strongly suggests that experience refines the perception of biological motion during early infancy.

    “The act of walking has therefore shifted the percept of biological motion for those infants who had experienced self produced stepping behaviour.

    “This suggests that the limited period of experience … altered the infant’s perception of walking, indicating a link between action perception and action production in early infancy.”


  10. Study suggests intervention offered in school readiness program boosts children’s self-regulation skills

    December 31, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Oregon State University press release:

    Adding a daily 20 to 30 minute self-regulation intervention to a kindergarten readiness program significantly boosted children’s self-regulation and early academic skills, an Oregon State University researcher has found.

    Self-regulation skills — the skills that help children pay attention, follow directions, stay on task and persist through difficulty — are critical to a child’s success in kindergarten and beyond. The intervention, co-developed and tested by OSU’s Megan McClelland, a nationally-recognized expert in child development, uses music and games to help preschoolers learn and practice self-regulation skills.

    The intervention was added to a three-week summer school readiness program at a large school district on the East Coast for children entering kindergarten that had no prior preschool experience. The school district asked McClelland and her colleagues to evaluate their use of the intervention. It was the first opportunity for researchers to evaluate the program’s effectiveness in a “real-world” setting, where teachers, rather than researchers, led the students through self-regulation games.

    The researchers found that use of these games daily for three weeks improved the children’s self-regulation skills. They also found that the children’s broader school readiness skills, including early math and literacy skills, improved as a result of the intervention and the children saw greater-than-expected growth in the months following the program.

    “It was a test to see if the results of this intervention look similar in a less-controlled environment, and it appears that they do,” said McClelland, the Katherine E. Smith Healthy Children and Families Professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences. “It helps demonstrate the feasibility and scalability of this kind of program.”

    The findings add to McClelland’s growing body of research demonstrating the value of teaching self-regulation skills to children entering kindergarten, particularly those who are at higher risk of struggling academically in school and opens the door for the intervention to be used more widely by teachers and schools.

    The evaluation of the school district program was published recently in the journal Early Childhood Research Quarterly. Co-authors are Robert J. Duncan and Sara A. Schmitt of Purdue University and Maura Burke of Fairfax County Public Schools. Duncan and Schmitt both earned their doctorates at OSU.

    The school district added the self-regulation intervention at some schools participating in a summer “Bridge to Kindergarten” in 2013. It was also offered in 2014 and 2015. Researchers evaluated data from about 150 children from each year.

    “The school district wanted an explicit focus on self-regulation in this program designed to get children ready for kindergarten,” McClelland said.

    Teachers were trained to lead the children through the intervention, which uses movement and music-based games that increase in complexity over time and encourage the practice of self-regulation skills. The games require few materials and the children can help make the props as part of their lessons.

    One game is “Red Light, Purple Light,” which is similar to “Red Light, Green Light.” The instructor acts as a stoplight and holds up construction-paper circles to represent stop and go. Children follow color cues, such as purple is stop and orange is go, and then switch to the opposite, where purple is go and orange is stop.

    Other games include “Freeze,” where the children are encouraged to do the opposite of the teacher’s instructions; and “Sleeping,” where the children pretend to sleep and then wake up as something different and must remain in that character.

    Additional rules are added later to increase the complexity of the game. The game requires children to listen and remember instructions, pay attention to the adult leading the game and resist natural inclinations to stop or go.

    “The findings from this evaluation support our previous randomized controlled studies of this program, which is a promising sign that the intervention will also be effective in practical applications,” McClelland said. “If we can make the program more accessible to schools and teachers, and still ensure quality, it becomes more feasible to share it more widely.”