Many adoptive parents know that our children may have experienced neglect in their early years. We also know that those years are critical to development, so I turned up the volume when I heard a report about this on Michigan Radio, an NPR-member station. Michigan Radio currently has a great series called “State of Opportunity,” a “multi-year reporting and community engagement project focused on how poverty affects children in Michigan.” One of the program’s reports was called “Five things to know about early childhood brain development.” During the program, Dr. Jack Shonkoff, director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard, explained how children’s brains change during their first years of life. Here is a summary of his “five things to know”:
1. A baby forms 700 new neural connections per second in the first years of life.
2. An infant’s brain is dependent on responsiveness from adults.
3. Language disparities show up early, and last a lifetime.
4. The stresses of poverty can affect a child’s brain development.
5. The only way to dramatically decrease the gaps in achievement is to begin providing learning experiences much sooner than standard school aged entry.
Although I certainly can’t change what happened in my kids’ early years, having this type of information does help me to understand their struggles and challenges better.