ATTENTION AND REGULATION
Attention and regulation in early development is deeply embedded in the child’s relationships with others. Very young children depend on caregivers to help them manage their emotional responses – over time infants develop their own self strategies. In caring for infants parents are acting as extensions of their internal regulatory systems. Establishing the connection between parent and infant can be seen as the basic task of the early months of life.
Many studies have shown the link between an infant’s ability for sustained attention and better emotional regulation and executive function and cognitive control as the child gets older.
Embedded within the parent-infant relationship and the development of attunement is the infant’s developing self-regulatory abilities. Brazelton and colleagues and colleagues were amongst the first to explore the relationship between positive and sensitive parental responsiveness to the infant’s behavioural cues and their development of infant self-regulatory competence.
The development of tools such as the Neonatal Behavioural Assessment Scale (NBAS) and the Newborn Behavioural Observations (NBO) provide structured processes by which to assess or observe behavioural cues in infants.
By using the NBAS, one becomes sensitive to the complex dynamics of infant behaviour, and the infant’s physiological stability, as well as the infant’s attempts at self-regulatory strategies. Collaboration with parents is a critical component of the NBAS. Both the NBAS and the NBO incorporate a specific focus on crying and consolability as part of the observation and the infant’s capacity for self-regulatory behaviours including state regulation and organisation. These elements are essential for early infant occupations such as feeding, and sleeping and early social interaction, all of which can then be discussed and shared with the parents in a supportive dialogue.
Interventions to support Attachment, attention, attunement and regulation
- Promote high quality parent-infant interactions and parent- child synchrony
- Use appropriate clinical tools/approaches to support family members to observe and interpret their infant’s behaviours such as Brazelton’s NBAS and NBO ( Nugent et al).