Early Childhood Programs and Brain Research

Research from :
The Child Trauma Academy
Baylor University School of MMedicine
Children’s Defense Fund

An 80 million dollar grant could have created significant and positive changes in the lives and wellbeing of so many children in our state. Early Childhood Education is about brain development through strong emotional connections with another adult. The research reported by the American Family Association of Indiana’s Director Micah Clark is deeply incorrect. High quality preschool education provides for so many children of poverty, life changing experiences and opportunities that structurally and functionally change the brain! Children living in poverty and extreme poverty are living in family systems which are also emotionally, socially and physiologically compromised by chronic stress and ambient trauma. This type of everyday trauma, significantly affects the emotional attachments, the relational organ, our brain. We are neurobiologically wired for relationships. And when these relationships are under duress, we are at risk, physiologically, and vulnerable for compromised health, emotional regulation and emotional, physical and social maladies.

When primary caregivers are experiencing distress through poverty, children and their development are intimately affected. The resiliency research is very clear. “One secure emotional connection with an adult can change the trajectory of brain health, and therefore the future learning and positive emotional capacities of children who are not receiving these connections in their homes.”

Early childhood education for many children provides a “safe environment” where there is a secure attachment “felt”; planting the seeds of resilient repair into a child’s brain, his or her social organ that has the potential for living with lasting well-being. Children who are exposed to safe environments that provide stimulation in the form of emotional attachments have the potential to do well throughout life. Early Childhood Education programs provide these attachments, the stimulation from safe environments, healthy food, and the flexible presence and compassion that a child living within an emotionally and physiologically impoverished environment would never experience.
The research is clear and burgeoning. The early childhood years are critical developmental years where the brain is forming in a very use dependent way. When we are exposed to emotional and relational environments, we begin to move out of the fight flight freeze response, building a capacity to trust and thrive even when our home environments are oppressed with chronic stress and developmental everyday trauma. Young children who present with very angry and oppositional behaviors are so misunderstood. Fear is masked as anger. When we are exposed to an extended family through early childhood education, we develop the brain capacity to emotionally regulate, to self-soothe and to trust in ways that will enhance our learning in future years. We cannot afford to turn down large federal grants that provide so much more than meets the eye through a political educational reform lens!
In Indiana, we have the following:

Child Poverty

Nearly 1 in 4 (22.4 percent) of Indiana’s children were poor in 2012, a total of 349,524 children.1
Indiana ranked 28th in child poverty among states.2
More than 1 in 10 children lived in extreme poverty at less than half the poverty level.
The youngest children were the poorest age group. More than 1 in 4 children under age 6 were poor; nearly half of these poor children were extremely poor.

Children of color in Indiana are disproportionately poor.
Nearly 1 in 2 Black children, nearly 2 in 5 Hispanic children, and nearly 3 in 10 American Indian/Native Alaskan children were poor in 2012, compared to nearly 1 in 6 White children.

Children’s Defense Fund

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