Talking with Your Baby: Essential Language Nutrition
By Lynne Gayle
Amy Becklenberg, a family nurse practitioner and a Byrdine F. Lewis College of Nursing and Health Professions Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) student, nurtures babies with words. Her goal to help reduce the word gap in children ages 0-3 among low-income families led her to partner with Talk With Me Baby™, a Georgia Department of Public Health and Department of Education, Emory University’s School of Nursing and Department of Pediatrics, the Marcus Autism Center, the Atlanta Speech School, and Get Georgia Reading program, that trains nurses and health professionals on how to coach families on the importance of Language Nutrition for their young children.
In spring 2018, she was asked to help lead a service learning trip of Emory nursing students to the Dominican Republic. The DR service learning trip leader felt that Talk With Me Baby™ (translated as Hablame Bebe™) would be an ideal initiative to share with the health care professionals in the DR. Becklenberg’s fluency in Spanish, as well as her nursing and teaching skills, made her a valuable member of the team. While in the DR, the group shared the Hablame Bebe™ training with the Dominican nurses, medical students, nursing and health professions students, and community health workers.
Research on the word gap problem indicates that by age four, children from lower-income families hear 30 million fewer words than those in higher-income families.
“Language development for babies and young children is critical, as their vocabulary impacts literacy, and their ability to thrive in school, which has long-term implications for preventable chronic disease,” said Becklenberg.
Becklenberg and her team in the DR provided training to healthcare workers, presented Hableme Bebe™ at a hospital and the local university. The American team also gained insight during the visit into low resource settings on how collaboration between community healthcare workers and nurses leads to innovative ways to meet challenges and find solutions.
“I learned the importance of partnership and being open to what we can learn from people with fewer financial resources who use creativity and community relationships to solve challenges,” said Becklenberg.
“I want to bring my DNP skills to my role as a nursing educator and researcher to help ameliorate health disparities for vulnerable populations.”