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New Program Helps Guide Caregivers Through Stages of Child Development

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RALEIGH — How do you know when your child should be crawling, walking and talking? Developmental milestones can give parents a lot of anxiety. Wake County is introducing a program aimed at easing their fears.

Dr. T. Berry Brazelton started a nationwide program calledTouchpoints. It identifies the ages and milestones in child development. It also emphasizes that how a parent, caregiver and health care professionals nurture a child through these stages can make all the difference.

Wake County Smart Startis introducing the "Touchpoints" program. Its goal is to help caregivers and health care providers better understand child development.

"Often, I think in the past that we've just assumed we check off the developmental milestones and say a child passes or fails. It's not that simple at all," says Jean Smith, a pediatrician for Wake County.

Tannis Hillis, mother of 19-month-old Mary Kenne, agrees that it is not simple. She says you cannot learn about children from a book.

"If she doesn't sleep well at night, I know something is wrong. It's either a tooth or an ear or something," says Hillis. "As much as I have read, as many classes as I have been to, even though I'm trained in health care, everything surprises me."

That is why hands-on training is key to helping this group understand children and the role parents play in their development.

"The parent is the expert on their child's behavior," says Smith. She says health care providers must listen to parents.

"Families do have so much to offer, we can learn so much more about the child and in the context of their family if we hear the parent," she says.

This week, five trainers are introducing "Touchpoints" to people who work with children in Wake County.

The training emphasizes that caregivers and doctors need to develop good relationships with parents in order to help children grow.