The Power of Early Childhood

The Crane Center for Early Childhood Research and Policy at the Schoenbaum Family Center at Weinland Park (formerly the Children’s Learning Research Collaborative) is a driving force in making new discoveries about child development and early education, especially in urban environments.

The center is directed by Ohio State’s Laura Justice, a speech-language pathologist and researcher in early childhood language and literacy development, communication disorders and educational interventions.

A three day conference focusing on the importance of abuse/neglect prevention and developing interventions for children who have experienced maltreatment or trauma will be held Sept. 23-25 on the Ohio State campus.

The College of Education and Human Ecology, Family and Children First Council, and the university’s P12 Initiative are excited to host national speaker and child development neuroscientist, Dr. Bruce Perry, MD, PhD.

Dr. Perry is a specialist on the abused/neglected brain and an advocate for early care and learning. He speaks on how negative childhood experiences can change the biology of the brain and the health of the child. He is founder of The ChildTrauma Academy , a not-for-profit organization based in Houston, Texas working to improve the lives of high-risk children through direct service, research and education.

Dr. Perry described our current society as one on a collision course with biology and nature. “You can fight Mother Nature,” he warned, “but ultimately, you’re going to lose.”

“The brain is the organ of humanity,” Dr. Perry said. “The more we understand about how the brain develops, works, and changes, the better off we’ll be when we design programs, policies, and practices.”

Unfortunately, our current programs, policies, and practices not only disregard what we do know about the brain and early childhood development, they are leading to irreparable harm to individuals and society. Unless we change our ways, Dr. Perry predicted, a century from now we will have 25% of families characterized as high-risk, instead of 10%. In one setting after another, we remove children from human relationships and human touch. We keep babies with babies, teenagers with teenagers, and grandparents with other grandparents. “We have created an environment where kids are growing up wanting more shiny things and starving for the fundamental core human relational aspects of touch, smile, and a moment spent sitting with someone.” When we do this, Dr. Perry said, we are doing nothing less than undermining the fundamental nature of our species.

‘You don’t become human just because you’re born into the species,” Dr.Perry said. “But because someone was kind with you, held you, and shared.” Also, many children, materially poor as well as wealthy, suffer from forms of neglect, which Dr. Perry defined as failing to provide “a pattern of developmental experience required to express a fundamental potential.”

Despite the dire warnings, Dr. Perry remains an optimist, believing we can choose whether the social fabric in communities is “thin and weak like muslin, or strong as canvas.” To do so, “We need to figure out how to increase the number and quality of relationships in all children, from high risk to no risk,” Dr. Perry said. “The first community and culture that acts on this gift to create consistent, nurturing, safe environments for young families and their children is going to see a huge quantum leap in all kinds of things and recapture 30% of dollars that could be used for the arts, infrastructure, and invention.”