Students gain experience

By Sheryl Cajka

Children in the Child Development Lab located in Gabel Hall can receive assistance in their developmental growth.

Six graduate assistants and eight student interns help director Susan Speroff with planning activities that will influence individual development in their 26 children.

The lab is currently divided into two programs, Speroff said.

The first program is for pre-school children, run by one graduate assistant and one student intern, she said.

Every Tuesday and Thursday morning, the pre-schoolers learn concepts of the real world, such as ordering from a menu in a restaurant, Speroff said.

At the beginning of the program, they talk with the children to see what they are interested in, she said. As interests change, they plan different activities.

“These children are learning something every day, in addition to just playing,” Speroff said.

The other program, run by the rest of the staff, is designed for infants and toddlers, and is only open to NIU students and faculty, she said.

Children six weeks to two years old are cared for full-time, five days every week, she said.

Speroff said her philosophy for these children is to give them many opportunities for growth.

“There are certain norms,” she said. “We watch what age they sit, crawl, turn over and walk. At this age, they need lots of encouragement.”

For example, babies learning to walk are encouraged by holding their hands and walking them around, Speroff said.

“We don’t force them to walk, but if they show any indication, we are there to help them,” she said.

Although students have read in a book about children learning to walk, they haven’t really experienced it until they see it, Speroff said.

Graduate assistant Becki Mitchell agrees that working in the lab has been a great experience.

She said the program gives her a chance to apply what she has learned in the classroom.

“I had never been around children before, but I learned how much fun it is being with kids,” she said.

Since different children have different abilities, Speroff and the students help each with their own growth pattern.

If a child is not as advanced as the others, they help them by supporting, but not forcing them, Speroff said. Children develop quicker in a group setting because they have more incentives.

Speroff also said she believes in setting up realistic challenges, not so they will fail, but so they can achieve them.

“It’s a developmental approach to working with children,” she said.