Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Baby Talk

I am just over a month into my community college course in 'Human Growth and Development' (see here and here) and it has been a splendid experience so far. I lucked out with a very capable instructor who aptly breaks up our three hour and forty-five minute evening class periods into smaller, easier to swallow sections of lectures, small group discussions and videos. (Even so, I don't know what I would do without the Dunkin Donuts across the street.)

I have been finding the subject matter fascinating. Here's a tiny sampling:
- A newly fertilized egg survives without any nourishment from the mother for up to two weeks as it makes its way through the fallopian tube to the uterus and implants itself.
- Following childbirth, the uterus continues to contract for several weeks. (This is how it 'shrinks.') A few women report more pain from these contractions than from those accompanying childbirth. (!) Breastfeeding helps stimulate the secretion of oxytocin, which encourages the uterus to contract back to (approximately) its pre-pregnancy size.
- Infants literally grow overnight. Researchers have measured growth of up to a full inch in less than 24 hours in infants up to 21 months.
- Hopi infants spend the first year of their lives strapped to a board yet begin to walk at about the same time as children in other societies.
- Researchers who re-wired the brains of baby ferrets so that visual input was sent to the auditory cortex instead of the visual cortex found that the ferrets actually learned to see pretty well.
In last night's class, we started getting into the ways in which infants begin to develop language skills, and how their brains lay the groundwork for the tremendous burst of language development that will take place over the next several years. I perked right up, because one of my main reasons for taking the class is to explore my interest in speech therapy.

As part of my efforts to figure out whether I would enjoy studying speech therapy, this foundational course is all well and good. Actually doing speech therapy, however, is a pretty different animal. For that reason, I knew I would have to seek out opportunities to learn more about what it is really like to work in the field and whether the practicalities of being a speech therapist would be a fit for me.

With that in mind, I am going to spend all day tomorrow with a real live speech pathologist. Although A is not working in an area that I am particularly interested in - she works exclusively with 0 to 3 year-olds - I think it will be beneficial to pick her brain about the different types of work that are out there, her likes/dislikes, etc. Plus she is really cool.

So tomorrow I will shadow A as she visits her clients. I will have to get up a whole hour earlier than usual, but I'm thinking the adorability factor will make up for it. My co-workers are pretty cute, but who can compete with a bunch of toddlers? Speaking of adorable, here's a photo of the Amazing J, who I will have a chance to hang out with this weekend.

Look at that arm! It's like someone put a really tight rubber band around her wrist. So cute!

Last time I saw Amazing J, I wasn't sure what the correct term was for our relationship (she is my cousin's daughter). According to the Internet, she is my 'first cousin once removed,' but that sounds cumbersome and formal so I'm just going to stick to calling her Amazing J. 252 days old and counting... If any of the children tomorrow are as cute as she is, I may just have to steal one to bring home to live with me.

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