The free app allows parents in Utah to track their young child’s developmental milestones

SARATOGA SPRINGS — It’s common knowledge that parenting doesn’t come with a manual — or at least not yet. The Help Me Grow Utah program, sponsored by the United Way of Utah County, introduced a new app to help parents get started.

Sylvia Lam gave birth to her eldest child, 4-year-old Ashton Nguyen, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Ashton just finished his first year of kindergarten, so he’s all about numbers and counting. He loves math,” Lam said. “Because Ashton was our first, I had no idea what milestones were and where we needed to be.”

Today he is doing very well, but Lam started to worry early on when he failed to meet some of his developmental milestones.

“We had some delays in speech… and a lot of significant delays in social skills and kind of being outside and with other people,” she described. “I was really worried about the milestones for him because he missed out on early experiences like his first year in society. He’s now caught up.”

Now Lam uses the Sparkler app to track her children’s milestones through regular surveys. The organization Help Me Grow Utah released the app earlier this year to replace the online surveys it previously sent out.

“This app gives families a faster and easier way to get everything done from their phone,” said director Tomas Caceres.

The app is designed to track progress in communication skills, gross and fine motor skills, and both social and emotional behavior. He says tracking these skills helps parents identify room for improvement.

“Certain questions (like), ‘Can your child pick up a Cheerio?’” Caceres said. “You can go back to the app and say, ‘Yes, my child does that’ or ‘Not yet, my child doesn’t do that yet.'”

Once parents complete the survey, they will receive a score for their child’s progress in each area.

“Parents do not have to interpret these results themselves. Our parent support specialists will call them, discuss the results and have a conversation with them,” Caceres explains.

Sylvia Lam plays with her child.
Sylvia Lam plays with her child. (Photo: Josh Szymanik, KSL-TV)

A parent support specialist contacted Lam to provide support when they noticed a need for Ashton.

“If someone is your coach or cheerleader who says, ‘It’s okay. You can do it. Here are some very concrete things you can do. Here are some examples. Don’t worry. We’ll get to it in a few weeks back.’ Lam said.

Lam was so grateful to have someone to talk to on the phone. “I think if I had just read those results I would have just cried because as a parent you really want the best for your children, and when you feel like you’re not giving them the best, it’s very difficult,” said she. .

Instead, the parent support specialist offered Lam productive strategies to help Ashton improve.

“Depending on where they scored, we might send you some activities to try at home, we might send you some videos so you can watch and practice with your child, but there are times when a referral is needed for more practical information. , personal support,” which would come from a third party, Caceres noted.

The parent support specialist told Lam to do whatever she could to instill confidence in her son because that would “bleed over into all those other hard skills (they’re) trying to work on, like saying more words or finishing a sentence or hold a speech. pencil the right way,” she said. Lam really appreciated that advice.

The app offers more than 2,000 activity ideas for parents to help their child progress. “There are lots of fun ideas for play and ways you can use common objects around the home to create different games or sensory bins,” Lam said.

“Learning where your child is developmentally comes from interacting with your child and playing with him and getting down on your knees and actively playing with those toys,” Caceres said. “It promotes healthy relationships. It promotes trust in that parent.”

The app also allows parents to document their child’s progress through photos. “You can actually take a picture of your child completing that activity, and you can create a scrapbook within the app,” he said. “It’s really great to go back and watch that growth with your child.”

After getting the help she needed with Ashton, Lam was excited to follow the growth of her 2-year-old daughter, Eevee Nguyen, as well. “I have a profile set up for each child and so I get pop-up notifications on my phone when it’s time to do a survey for Ev or time to do a survey for Ashton,” she explained.

“It gives me fond memories when I think, ‘Oh, we’re not there yet. Oh, I should spend a little more time and more emphasis on activities that will help us learn those things.’

Lam is grateful for the reassurance the support has provided. “When we get those reports back and we’re doing really well in different areas, I feel more confident as a parent and we’re providing the experiences our kids need,” she said.

Caceres urges parents to keep track of their child’s milestones as soon as possible. “Research shows that the most critical ages in a child’s life are zero to three,” he said. “Their brains are growing quickly and there’s a lot going on. They’re absorbing a lot from the environment, … and so if we can catch those cues early, your child will be better off.”

The Sparkler app allows parents to track their children’s milestones from as young as two months old. It is available for free in English, Spanish and Chinese on both the App Store and Google Play Store for Utah residents with the code UT.

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