Babies do not all hit developmental milestones at the same time, and this is a major cause of concern for parents everywhere. If your one-year-old hasn’t taken her first step, or your two-year-old isn’t speaking full sentences, how do you know if your child’s development is in the normal range or if intervention is warranted?
A new free website conceived by University of Haifa professor of occupational therapy Ayelet Ben-Sasson, an expert on early childhood development, and her husband Eli Ben-Sasson, a computer science professor at Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, uses crowd wisdom to help parents better monitor their child’s development in a supportive peer environment.
The innovative website is called baby.croinc.org. “CROINC” stands for CROwd-based INteractive Clustering. Geared to parents of children from birth to age six, the site provides processed statistical information on “typical” rates of development, based on information entered by users.
“The website enables parents to create a personal developmental diary for their baby, including milestones about their motor, communication and social skills” explained Ayelet Ben-Sasson.
“The system gives parents information about future milestones, so that they can help their child advance toward these goals and understand their baby’s behavior from a developmental standpoint. Research shows that early diagnosis and treatment of developmental problems leads to significantly better outcomes, because of the increased brain plasticity of young children.”
Wisdom of the parent crowd
Eli Ben-Sasson added that the advantage of crowd wisdom is especially great when dealing with complex phenomena.
“Early childhood development is as complex, mysterious and important as it gets. Our website is a collaborative platform where parents play the dual role of ‘clients’ and ‘service providers.’
“We do not presume to replace pediatricians or well-baby clinics, but rather create a dynamic database containing essential information which will be available to all parents who need it,” he said. “Those parents who want to learn more should simply register and try it out. After all, it’s freely available online and takes less than five minutes to enroll.”
Currently, baby.croinc.org has attracted more than 300 members worldwide, and the founders are looking to increase its user base in order to improve the data accuracy for every user.
The website was programmed by Technion undergraduate computer science students Eden Sayag and Matan Yechieli, and user support is provided by Yael Schwartz-Klein, an early childhood therapist at Haifa University.
The project has received funding from the European Research Council, the Israel Science Foundation and the Israel Council for Higher Education.
Ayelet Ben-Sasson received her master’s degree in special education from Hebrew University and her doctorate in occupational therapy from Boston University. Her research is focused on autism, sensory modulation disorders and infant development. She is involved in an ongoing research project that examines the development of social-communication behaviors in infants and their relation to sensory-motor development and the risk for developmental disabilities.
In her vision, baby.croinc.org can help parents obtain an evidence-based perspective on their child’s development. “This tool offers a crowd-based approach to early child development, realizing that parents are the biggest experts on their children.”
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