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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Books Build Better Brains

Here are quick, fairly unedited notes from today's Books Build Better Brains workshop. It was put on by IFLS and given by Dipesh Navsaria.

April 24 Books Build Better Brains:

Early brain and child development –
            Child development is a foundation for community development and economic development. Children become the foundation of a sustainable society. We need to invest in the future.
            Brains are built over time. Don’t invest in just babies and you also can’t just wait until later.  Invest in families, too.  Adults also have learning needs.
            What predicts development – biology, health and development, ecology (where are they, who is around them, what is the world like?) Three legged stool – genetics/biology, socio-economic env, attachment and relationship patterns.
            The interactive influences of genes and experience literally shape the architecture of the developing brain.  And the active ingredient is the serve and return nature of children’s engagement in relationships with their parents and other caregivers. Interaction. People over products. This is becoming forgotten in our society. Humans do not develop in isolation. Often face-to-face interaction isn’t modeled for them. “what is my child going to learn from me? They are better off in front of and “educational” dvd.” Face-to-face interaction is a learned behavior…. It’s not a natural reaction or behavior for many people.
            Scaffolding and simple skills for more advanced skills over time.
            Toxic stress in early childhood is associated with persistent effects on the nervous system. Lifelong effects on learning, behavior, and even physical health. The healthier the society, the higher the IQ. Brain functions and nerve firings are higher in a normal 3 year old brain versus a neglected child.

Stress Response: increases in cortisol and epinephrine. Some stress is normal and helps us respond to the world. The degree and type of stress is what can cause detrimental  versus helpful reactions.
            3 levels: positive response (learn from it),  tolerable (serious and temporary stress responses, buffered by supportive relationships), toxic stress (not a single bad stressor – prolonged activation of the stress response system. It stays for weeks, months, years, entire lifetimes and there are fewer or no buffering relationships).
            Socio-emotional buffering is the primary factor of distinguishing level of stress. Toxic stress can be intergenerational. Child abuse, parental substance abuse, domestic violence, war/violence, poverty, homelessness, neglect. They create effects that reverberate throughout a lifetime. Poverty is neurotoxic. Children with typical cortisol response have higher executive function and were rated as having more self-control in the classroom. Those with a flat, high or very low or blunt response had a lower function and had less self-control. Another study: children engaged with mothers engaged in scaffolding play had lower cortisol levels and were more attentive. Let the child explore while providing a foundation for the play. Child has a chance to try things out and be persistent. Children who were in more authoritarian had higher cortisol levels and were found to be less attentive. This was found at 7 months of age and again at 15 months. They also found that the more impoverished the family, the less likely they were to engage in scaffolding play. Why is this happening? Many critical factors.

The Adverse Childhood Experience Study -
17,000 patients that looked at childhood abuse and toxic stressors. Most were middle-class white people average age of 57 split even between men and women. This was NOT a study looking just at poverty families. High responses and unexpectedly common with adverse stressors in their childhood. 75-100 percent risk of development delay with exposure to 5+ risk factors. 3x the risk of heart disease if you had 7-8 stressors compared to somebody with 0. Smoking risk, adult alcoholism drug use, suicide/attempts, etc all at higher risk for adults who had early adversity.

Epigenetics – what happens over your lifetime will somehow be passed on to your children and future generations through genetics. Twins have same genome but have different epigenomes. Fetal exposure can be passed on to future generations – later come out in future generations not necessarily the current one.
Where may we have science-policy gaps? Child welfare – mandated maternal employment and public assistance. May be causing problems for the child AND the child’s child by not encouraging family functions and requiring them to be gone from the home.

Creating the right conditions for early childhood development is easier and more effective than trying to fix problems later on. We need good protective interventions to keep healthy child on the right path. Can also do stuff for children who are at risk. Model good discipline, reading, setting limitations, language stimulation from people not from products, high quality early childhood education, a society that recognizes good, quality education not just somebody who is around all day and is accessible for everyone, specialized services, home visits, etc. We need to reduce the barriers to positive socio-emotional behaviors. Is a parent working three jobs to earn a living wage? What do you think that is doing to their kids and family life?
            700 new neural connection per second for infants
            at 18 months, we can measure disparities in early vocabulary based on an economic scale. Achievement gap starts at this age.
For every dollar we put in early childhood programs, we get 4-9 back.           
“It is easier to build strong children than repair broken men” – Frederick douglass.

Table Talk: What can we do about it?
Give credit to pregnant and teen parents for participating in family classes and personal environment and parent programs. Help to eliminate the stressors of teen mothers.
Head start-like programs that encourage the whole family to participate in activities. Reach out to all families but make a special effort to reach at-risk office.
WIC offices
Modeling interactions during storytime
Decrease the stigma of assistance
Parent play programs to encourage scaffolding and face-to-face play
Quality Time is a big issue for many families, particularly those who are “at-risk” – single parents, poverty, working lots and school, substance abuse, little or no help from other family members
Broaden support for parents in community settings
School-based health centers
Home visiting programs
Resilience training (7Cs)
Emotional coaching
Positive parenting
Intentional skill building
Investing in early intervention programs
Big brother/big sister
Mentoring activities
Investment in new strategies
Little league/gymnastics/etc
Address political and sociological problems

Reading Reality

“Meaningful Differences in the every day experiences of young children” study
Wisconsin ranks 49th out of 50 states on daily reading practices for families in poverty.

4 Rs of early childhood – routines, reading, rhyming, rewards, relationships

2013 senate joint resolution 59 – remind legislators about it and encourage funding to support the language in the resolution. 

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