There was a common belief years ago that when a baby was born, it’s brain was complete and developed. New brain research shows us that the environment in which the child is raised and the experiences the child has directly impact brain development.
Many environmental and societal factors can negatively impact the brain development of children. These can be things such as exposure to drugs prenatally, malnutrition, infection, premature birth and more. When a child experiences chronic stress because of abuse or neglect it can disrupt average and normal brain development. All of these things show themselves in early life and in preschool and kindergarten they just become magnified when children begin to read.
The brain is most susceptible to these influences in the first few years of life. The first three are particularly important as far as environmental influences. When a child is in an environment where they are deprived of normal stimulation and nurturing they may never reach the potential that they were born with because it hasn’t been tapped into. Even if a child is born with a normal IQ, if the brain development is not nurtured the child will not reach full potential. On the flip side a child with developmental delays who gets the help they need early on may catch up to their peers and excel at a normal rate. Because we know the influence that early learning has on the brain we know that early intervention is hopeful and we know how important fostering healthy and nurturing environments are for all children.
When policy makers receive the data on early learning and brain development they then have to translate that into programs and policies that are beneficial for children. To date, scientists know more about what happens that causes delays in development than they do about what can be done to overcome delays and learning disabilities. This information then leads to policy makers ridding society of those biological and societal issues that are known to hold back brain development.
Policy makers also have the task of seeing to the needs of the age group from zero to three but not while neglecting other age groups. Even when a child is in the womb their brain is developing and the environment in the womb is crucial. Teens also have a significant amount of growth and change. We know that the brain is continually developing, it is never done. So, it is critical that policy makers implement programs for every age and stage so that no one is doing without the help needed to progress.