A Focus on Infant/Early Childhood Mental Health

October 2022
This newsletter focuses on sharing information on infant/early childhood mental health and
the importance of relationship-based approaches and supports that help infants and young children feel safe, supported, and valued by the adults around them. The newsletter, and the Infant Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation (IECMHC) program, is made possible by a partnership between the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) and the Pennsylvania Key.
This month’s edition of the Infant Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation newsletter will focus on Inclusion. NAEYC’s definition of Inclusion is as follows: 

Early childhood inclusion embodies the values, policies, and practices that support the right of every infant and young child and his or her family, regardless of ability, to participate in a broad range of activities and contexts as full members of families, communities, and society. The desired result of inclusive experiences for children with and without disabilities and their families include a sense of belonging and membership, positive social relationships and friendships, and development and learning to reach their full potential. The defining features of inclusion that can be used to identify high quality early education programs and services are access, participation, and supports.  
This issue will also explore empathy, a key factor in an inclusive environment. Teaching with empathy unleashes empathy, nurturing human connection. According to Psychology Today, “Empathy means that a child: 
  • Understands that she is a distinct person from those around her and that other people may have different feelings and perspectives than her own. 
  • Can recognize feelings in herself and others and name them. 
  • Can regulate her own emotional responses. 
  • Can put herself in someone else’s shoes and imagine how someone might feel. 
  • Can imagine what kind of action or response might help a person feel better.” 
Helping young children to develop a strong sense of empathy is beneficial because: It helps them to build a sense of security and stronger relationships with other children and educators, positioning them well for learning. It encourages tolerance and acceptance of others. It promotes good mental health.
Developing Empathy to Build Warm, Inclusive Classrooms. These tips can help you as an educator consider your assumptions, expectations and biases so that you can better develop your own empathy and the children’s as well.

How to Help Young Children Develop Empathy. Tips for helping children develop empathy

What is Empathy? (Video. 2:30) Murray has some trouble understanding what empathy means: it’s the ability to understand and care about how someone else is feeling. There are different ways to build empathy at each age. 
Teachers frequently struggle with the concepts of fair and equal. With the increase in student diversity and the expectation for differentiated instruction, issues surrounding fairness are more evident than ever. Fair and equal are certainly not the same thing.

Accommodations and supports should be provided to those that need them to be successful. Fair is meeting individual needs. 
Fair Isn’t Equal: Seven Classroom Tips. Consider the subtle yet important differences between treating students equally and treating them fairly. 

Differentiation in Preschool. Once teachers get to know preschool students well, it’s possible to set up learning experiences that keep them all appropriately challenged. 

How to Teach Diverse Learners in Pre-Kindergarten. Instead of expecting all of the children to react to a lesson in the same way, ditch the cookie-cutter notion and plan for a diverse group of learners. 
In an inclusive program, children with and without disabilities learn and participate in the same daily activities and routines.

Inclusive experiences support a sense of value, belonging and membership, positive social relationships and friendships and the development and learning of each child to reach their full potential.
Rocking and Rolling: Promoting Inclusion in Infant and Toddler Settings. While inclusion is an important goal for many families and teachers and is a hallmark of high-quality learning program, effective implementation requires planning, intentionality and collaboration.

Preparing Young Children for the Inclusion of Children with Disabilities into the Classroom. Here are some tips for making your classroom more inclusive and helping all children be successful.
Promoting Inclusion & Reducing Expulsion and Suspension. According to the US Policy Statement on Inclusion, there is a need to support a culture of inclusion, insure staff have the knowledge and competencies to support inclusion and insure everyone is of the attitude that it is something that should be done for all children. Read OCDEL’s two policy statements and supporting documents on effective inclusion.
Inclusion Benefits Everyone (Children, Families, Providers and Directors) 3-part webinar series, one hour each. 
With the generous support of the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) the Pennsylvania Key IECMH Consultation team was able to add a staff member to support School Age Child Care (SACC) programs. SACC related social-emotional resources and professional development opportunities will also be created, and the consultant will participate in SACC related stakeholder groups on a regular basis, as identified.
Check out this new section of the newsletter below, designated to SACC related social-emotional resources.
That’s not fair! How to teach fair does not mean equal. Things may not always seem fair especially when they are not equal. Help students understand why fair does not always mean equal.                                                 
How To Promote Inclusion in After School Programs. “Programs that are committed to quality and diversity often see belonging and inclusion as the starting point for all children.”
3-Step Process to Building an Inclusive After-School Program. Every child has an innate desire to learn, explore, and have fun – regardless of their skill or ability levels. That’s why it’s important for after school programs to create a welcoming and supportive environment for everyone, or in other words, promote inclusion. 

Brene Brown on Empathy (Kid Friendly!) (video 2:32).“Empathy fuels connection and sympathy drives disconnection”
The partnership between parents and educators is a critical component in advancing inclusive practices.
Growing Empathy. Bring out your child’s compassion with these helpful tips
How to Help Your Child Develop Empathy. Try these practical tips to help toddlers develop empathy and understand that others have different thoughts and feelings than they do.

The Power of Inclusion: What to Expect When Your Preschooler Attends an Inclusive Preschool Program. An inclusive preschool servs children with and without disabilities in the same space. There are some important components to know about your child being in an inclusive setting.
IECMH Consultation helps adults strengthen their relationships with young children and build capacity to respond to children’s social-emotional needs. IECMHC can help reduce caregiver stress, as well as increase caregivers’ reflective practice skills.
IECMH Consultants are available by appointment to provide IECMHC Virtual Office Hours consultation via telephone or video conference. IECMHC Virtual Office Hours is a short-term, collaborative, problem-solving conversation to help you find next steps for: Child Social-Emotional Concerns | Child Behavioral or Developmental Concerns Emotional Well-being of Teachers and Caregivers | Partnering with Families.
Appointments are held on the first and third Fridays of the month, or other days/times by request. Get more info.
The Pennsylvania Key has streamlined the process for Keystone STARS programs to request Infant Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation (IECMHC). Child care providers can request services by using the Request for Service Form (PDF). Completed forms can be submitted via email PAIECMH@pakeys.org or faxed to 717-213-3749.
Programs and families can contact the program leadership directly at PAIECMH@pakeys.org with questions or concerns.
Share your feedback! We'd like to hear what you think about infant early childhood mental health. Are there resources you'd like to see? Questions you have? Tell us! Send your feedback to PAIECMH@pakeys.org.