Toxic Stress and the First Thousand Days

Denver had the pleasure of hosting two excellent conferences on early childhood development recently: “The Ann M. Logan Lecture on Early Childhood Development” and “Early Childhood Summit 2014: Understanding & Mitigating Toxic Stress”. Both of these events included Dr. Dipesh Navsaria sharing his remarkable “Toxic Stress and the First Thousand Days” presentation. Dr. Navsaria is so informative, entertaining and engaging we highly recommend all our partners and friends invest the hour to better understand why we are working so hard to promote healthy social-emotional development in 0-3 children.

The Civic Canopy shares the presentation decks for Early Childhood Summit 2014: Understanding & Mitigating Toxic Stress, including Dr. Sarah Watamura keynote address “Toxic Stress in the First Three Years: Understanding and Mitigating the Lifelong Impact”, Dr. Navasaria’s presentation and more. Additionally, they share an excellent toolkit including many great links to research, reports, policy papers and more information related early childhood initiatives. Kudos to Jodi Hardin and the event committee for an excellent production!

Dipesh Navsaria, MPH, MSLIS, MD is a public health-trained pediatrician and a children’s librarian and as such has a wonderful and unique perspective on the importance of early childhood literacy and toxic stress. Dr. Navsaria is an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and practices general pediatrics at Access Community Health Center. Dr. Navsaria is the director of advocacy training for the University’s pediatric residency program and teaches trainees in a variety of settings. He recently received national recognition for his accomplishments in pediatric advocacy as an awardee from the Institute on Medicine as a Profession. Dr. Navsaria is the founder and director of the Pediatric Early Literacy Projects at the University of Wisconsin and is also the founding medical director of Reach Out and Read Wisconsin. Over the last two years, he has served on a small, select working group of the American Academy of Pediatrics promoting a new strategic priority on Early Brain and Child Development. He has lectured to rave reviews throughout the country on the detrimental effects of toxic stress during early childhood and on the importance of early literacy promotion in medical practices.

– Denver Health:

Pediatricians Set Limits on Screen Time

Andrea Petersen at The Wall Street Journal reports that The American Academy of Pediatrics’ New Guidelines on Children’s Use of Internet, TV, Cellphones, Videogames.


“Excessive media use is associated with obesity, poor school performance, aggression and lack of sleep,” said Marjorie Hogan, co-author of the new policy and a pediatrician.

Families should have a no-device rule during meals and after bedtime, the guidelines say. Parents should also set family rules covering the use of the Internet and social media and cellphones and texting, including, perhaps, which sites can be visited, who can be called and giving parental access to Facebook accounts. The policy also reiterated the AAP’s existing recommendations: Kids should limit the amount of screen time for entertainment to less than two hours per day; children younger than 2 shouldn’t have any TV or Internet exposure. Also, televisions and Internet-accessible devices should be kept out of kids’ bedrooms.

Doctors say parents need to abide by the family rules, too, to model healthy behavior. That, some say, may be the toughest part.

Perhaps the more important point is that it is important for parents and caregivers to be aware that for children under three need interaction with familiar adults more than they need instruction. In the first three years, children need adults to help develop their communication skills: listen to speech patterns, hear words and pauses, take turns making sounds or speaking. These are the things that prepare their brains to learn and share effectively when they embark on early childhood education.

Language-Gap Study Bolsters a Push for Pre-K

Motoko Rich at The New Times writes of yet another study supporting how important early communication is to school readiness and achievement:

Nearly two decades ago, a landmark study [Hart & Risley’s Early Catastrophe, a key research guide in the development of Bright Beginnings programs] found that by age 3, the children of wealthier professionals have heard words millions more times than those of less educated parents, giving them a distinct advantage in school and suggesting the need for increased investment in prekindergarten programs. [This is known in Early Childhood Development circles as the “30-Million Word Gap”.]

The new research by Anne Fernald, a psychologist at Stanford University, which was published in Developmental Science this year, showed that at 18 months children from wealthier homes could identify pictures of simple words they knew — “dog” or “ball” — much faster than children from low-income families. By age 2, the study found, affluent children had learned 30 percent more words in the intervening months than the children from low-income homes.

The research keeps piling on the concept that early learning, school readiness and lifetime achievement often hinges on the interactive communication between adults and children in the first years of life. Bright Beginnings has been spreading this message for over 20 years to the parents and caregivers in Colorado. Contrary to the article’s conclusions, however, we believe the implications are most profound to the parents of children aged 0-3 — before they get to prekindergarten programs.

Early Education in the Doctor’s Office

EdNews Colorado wrote about Bright Beginnings and other early childhood programs in colorado that have seen success in delivering their programs in health care settings

As advocates pay more attention to the power of early exposure to language, many of the most well-known programs are far from meeting demand. In Colorado, only a small fraction of young children are served by programs like Early Head Start, Head Start or intensive home-visiting programs.

Programs like Reach Out and Read and Bright Beginnings step into that void with a unique offer: to reduce early literacy deficits at a much lower cost and on a greater scale. Plus, by connecting with so many families at clinics or other medical establishments, both programs capitalize on the fact that during the early years of their children’s lives, many parents have their only contact with trusted professionals in health care settings.

The Business Case for Early Childhood Education

John Pepper and James Zimmerman in a NY Times Op-Ed:

In short, early educational interventions really matter, and have long-term consequences. Children who are not proficient in reading by third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school than children who read at or above grade level — and 13 times more likely, if they live in poverty. A child’s brain grows to roughly 85 percent of its full capacity in the first five years of life. These are also the years when a child’s sense of what is possible is being formed.