Thursday Interview: NYC Infant Enrichment Coach Jacalyn Burke

By Nanny X, 2013
Infant Enrichment Coach: Jacalyn Burke
Niche nannies are the new buzzword in childcare especially in cities like LA or New York. A niche nanny is any caregiver who has developed a particular expertise in their career. For some, it’s working with multiples, or children with special needs. For others, like Jacalyn Burke, it involves working with a certain age group towards milestone enhancement. 
We arranged to meet Jacalyn over the weekend in downtown Manhattan to discuss Infant Enrichment. 
What’s an Infant Enrichment Coach?
An Infant Enrichment Coach is someone who works closely with an infant, toddler or young child towards specific developmental milestones or touchpoints. These developmental milestones were created by child professionals like the late Dr Stanley I Greenspan, and Dr T. Berry Brazelton, MD. 
Give me a for instance.
Okay so let’s say baby Zach is a few months old and you (the parent) are concerned that he’s not developing normally. You would call me in to observe. I would test Zach for existing and emerging skills, and I would evaluate whether Zach’s development is on track. I would test for Zach making appropriate eye contact, for grabbing of objects in close range and/or making attempts to roll over. Before I devised a program that is tailor made for Zach, I would ask about how he feeds, sleeps and what his birth experience was like. I would attempt, with Zach’s permission, to ‘tune in’ with him. If for example, I concluded that Zach had a hard time trusting his ability to explore his environment I would concentrate on building up his confidence. My goal with Zach would be to symbolically take his hand and pique his curiosity for risk taking. 

Sounds like hiring the equivalent of hiring a Life Coach for kids, is it?
Yes, but it’s much more than that. It’s an holistic approach to increasing human potential. An IEC (Infant Enrichment Coach) must first establish a bond of trust with the child. Advancement is only made possible through an infant’s tacit consent (exemplified through a level of comfort, joy and trust when in the company of an IEC). Once that social contract has been made an IEC can go to work. An IEC is an infant’s mentor and teacher, but we also have to be an object of fun and love. 
Why do you think parents should consider an Infant Enrichment Coach?
The diagnostic quality of this type of nurturance acts as an early warning sign for new or anxious parents. It also gives children an excellent start in life preparing them early on to stand out as exceptional individuals. An IEC  encourages a child, through mentoring trust and encouraging curiosity, a life-long passion for pushing the envelope. 

What qualifies you to consult as an Infant Enrichment Coach?

I have worked consistently in New York and London as a high-end
professional nanny. My educational background is in the humanities, with an
emphasis on the Fine Arts and English language. Upon graduation, I trained as
an ESOL tutor in London teaching English as a second language to foreign
students. This provided me with unique experiences as an instructor, it also led to voluntary
work as a literacy counselor.
When I moved to Manhattan I took work as a nanny because I
love teaching and mentoring individual growth. I quickly gained experience and
invaluable skill-sets. I took it upon myself to self-educate, supplementing my
direct empirical practice with an extensive bibliography of research in early
childhood development. I followed psychology blogs and childcare sites.
Ultimately, one of my greatest skills as an IEC is my intuitive ability to
connect with an individual child.

I will adapt my milestone programs to include nutritional advice, or family
work, because no child is an island. We are all connected, and an infant’s
progress is deeply tied to how he or she relates to their environment and the
people in it.

For day to day work, this is my bible: 

Do you only work with babies?

No, in fact most of my clients have older children. But I prefer to work with infants and toddlers because that’s where the most potential for advancement exists. If the right connection is established, an infant will naturally attempt new challenges both to emulate a caregiver and create approval. I have had enormous success with infants in terms of verbal, motor and cognitive skills. With toddlers the challenges have been around developing fine motor skills and emotional intelligence: the ability to self-regulate, negotiate and impulse control. In older children, my focus is on numeracy and literacy, focus, social confidence, etiquette and self-control.

Are you available for consultations?  

Absolutely! I am expanding my own hours to include more families. At present, I have some weekday morning hours, but I am looking to offer consultation within an institutional setting: a high-end Daycare, or a behavioral clinic or a pre-K environment. I am also developing training programs for niche nannies soon to be available to New York nanny agencies.

I’m a new parent and want to hire you, how does it work?

I would come and meet you and your baby at home. During my first session I would simply observe your child as it played with you or occupied itself. I would then go home and prepare an introductory program, orienting the baby to my presence until your infant feels comfortable enough to approach me and interact, and to be left alone in a room with me without causing distress. That’s when the real fun begins. 
My programs are child centric. In other words, this is a child’s dance and I am merely the piper. My sessions open at 1 hour, twice a week in the first few weeks so as not to overwhelm a child, leading into 3-hour sessions, once or twice a week. Each IEC program identifies key target milestones along with goals and tools to reach them. After each session a parent will receive an emailed report of how it went. I do also offer ‘homework’, activities that parents and caregivers can participate in during the week and over weekends so as to maintain consistency of expectation. A minimum engagement is 3 months, with a 1-month probation period. In other words, if the parents believe in what I am doing, we continue. 

“Jacalyn is magical with children and has the skill set, knowledge of child development and most importantly, the emotional intelligence to be an excellent caregiver.”  Soho Mom.

Contact Jacalyn:
Jacalyn Burke, BA, dip, can be reached for consultation via: Jacalyn can provide a full resume and references, is legal and agency screened. (please put ‘appointment’in subject)

Niche Nanny Training info: 
(please put ‘training’ in subject)