Brain Development and Early Child Development: Implications and Questions Raised by FCS Teachers and Extension Educators
Allison, Barbara N., Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences
The Early Childhood Initiative (ECI) is a major public-awareness campaign that was initiated by AAFCS in conjunction with a larger national campaign designed to promote healthy early childhood development. This project was sparked by the Carnegie Corporation (1994) report, "Starting Points: Meeting the Needs of Our Youngest Children" and scientific information on early brain development disseminated by the Families and Work Institute of New York. The national campaign, now known as "I Am Your Child", and spearheaded by the Reiner Foundation, is an important collaborative effort involving family and childhood experts and organizations, prominent entertainers, national medical experts, leading foundations, corporations, and policy and government leaders.
Since 1996, AAFCS has been a key collaborator in the campaign and has played a significant role in disseminating recent research on brain development during the important first few years of life through the work of the ECI. Under the direction of Marilyn Swierk, the ECI Task Force Chair, AAFCS affiliates, sections, and divisions have engaged in activities that focus on early childhood research at the national, state, and local levels. Train-thetrainer workshops (which were initiated at the AAFCS pre-conference in 1998) continue to prepare a cadre of trainers within the organization to educate others about the importance and implications of early brain development. The ECI provides state affiliates with training materials and up-todate resources.
Family and consumer sciences professionals across the nation have conducted workshops promoting the ECI and focusing on early brain development. Hoping to increase public awareness and influence public policy relating to this important issue, the Ohio Association of Family and Consumer Sciences Association (OAFCS) offered such a workshop during their 1999 annual meeting in Richfield, Ohio. Approximately 50 participants attended the pre-conference workshop, which was led by Karen Alexander of The Ohio State University, Barbara Allison of Florida State University, and Peggy Nichols, the ECI contact for Ohio. Participants were provided with some of the most current resources available through the ECI and the "I Am Your Child" campaign and were informed about recent research on brain development. As part of the workshop, the attendees were asked to participate in various activities focusing on brain development and to share their views on the implications of early brain development for family and consumer sciences professionals. In addition, they were asked to identify questions that they as FCS teachers, extension educators, childcare professionals, and teacher educators had regarding brain development and professional practice.
This article delineates the most significant implications of recent brain research and identifies questions and unresolved issues raised by teachers and educators. These implications and questions raised at this stage of the ECI will be both informative and will provide direction for subsequent training and workshops.
Implications Implications of the recent research on brain development as identified by the group of 50 Ohio professionals include:
1) Mothers have a critical responsibility during pregnancy to ensure the well-being and healthy development of their unborn and newborn babies.
2) We, as professionals, have a responsibility to inform the public, especially parents, about brain development and to serve as advocates for the healthy development of all children.
3) There is a fundamental need for education about early childhood development and brain development prior to pregnancy and at the time of birth. This education should be mandatory for all prospective parents.
4) Education pertaining to brain and early childhood development should be available to grandparents. Assistance should be provided to those grandparents who are directly involved in, caring for, or as increasingly the case, raising their grandchildren. …