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Building Brains and Futures: One Connection at a Time Robbin Gibb LaVonne Rideout.

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Presentation on theme: "Building Brains and Futures: One Connection at a Time Robbin Gibb LaVonne Rideout."— Presentation transcript:

1 Building Brains and Futures: One Connection at a Time Robbin Gibb LaVonne Rideout

2 No longer a debate Environment leaves its mark on our genome and can modulate future gene expression in a sometimes heritable fashion The study of how environment leaves its footprint on the genome falls into the domain of Epigenetics Harry Harlow -early work on surrogate mothers

3 Each gene contains a unique set of instructions that is carried out if endorsed (signed) by “signature effect” the environment. This is what is known as the “signature effect”

4 Brain and Human Development Nature Nurture Genes Epigenetics Stimulation & Nutrition & Nutrition Gene Function Gene Function Neurobiological Neurobiological Pathways Pathways Physical Mental Behaviour Learning & Health Health Cognition


6 Building Better Brains The process of building a healthy brain is influenced by a wide range of factors, particularly the first 2000 days from conception - A strong foundation  Protection from toxic stress  Strong “air traffic control” Skills  SERVE AND RETURN*

7 Top Three Factors to Promote Brain Development 1. Attachment & Relationships (SERVE & RETURN) 2. Build EF (AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL) 3. Manage Stress (AVOID TOXIC STRESS)

8 The Irreducible Needs of Children: What Every Child Must Have to Grow, Learn, and Flourish By Stanley Greenspan and Terry Brazelton Identify 7 NEEDS of children – Physical protection, safety, regulation – Experiences tailored to Individual difference – Developmentally appropriate experience – Limit setting, Structure, and Expectations – Stable, Supportive communities and Cultural continuity – Protecting the future


10 Top Three Factors to Promote Brain Development 1. Attachment & Relationships (SERVE & RETURN) 2. Build EF (AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL) 3. Manage Stress (AVOID TOXIC STRESS)

11 Success Requires: Creativity Flexibility Self-Control Discipline All of these qualities are “executive functions” supported by the PFC -EF’s are more important for school readiness than IQ -EF’s are trainable as early as the first year of life

12 Children with worse self-control (EF) at ages 3-11 (stress, loneliness, not physically fit): Have worse health outcomes Earn less Commit more crimes in the ensuing 30 years (studies controlled for IQ, Gender, and SES) Even small improvements in EF can translate into improvements in health, wealth, and lower crime rate for a nation( Moffitt et al. PNAS 2011).

13 Top Three Factors to Promote Brain Development 1. Attachment & Relationships (SERVE & RETURN) 2. Build EF (AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL) 3. Manage Stress (AVOID TOXIC STRESS)

14 TOXIC STRESS Positive or Tolerable STRESS Development of Stress Reactivity Modest Stress Reactivity Reduced Risk for Disease Increased Stress Reactivity Increased Risk for Heart Disease, Type II Diabetes, Alcoholism, Affective Disorders, Brain Aging etc. Early Experience alters stress axis

15 Felletti : Turning Gold into Lead ACE (adverse childhood experience) study >17,000 middle aged adults in California ACE’s are more common than previously thought and have a powerful effect on mental and physical health later in life Frontal lobe development is particularly sensitive

16  Emotional abuse  Physical abuse  Sexual abuse  Mother treated violently  Household use of drugs or alcohol  Presence of mental illness  Parental Separation or Divorce  Incarcerated household member And what are Adverse Childhood Experiences ?

17 OUTCOMES SCALE Positive Negative Serve and Return Toxic stress Air traffic control Sturdy foundation Positive

18 Pay it forward Neuroeconomists tell us that return on investment at this time of life ( preschool) is greater than at any other time in human development Generations to come can benefit from early childhood investment such as this

19 Two Key Ways to Make a Difference 1.Prevention 1. Prevention- by providing children and families with support we can avoid many situations that undermine brain development 2.Ingenuity 2. Ingenuity- we can use our knowledge about brain development and learning to provide experience that will maximize learning in children

20 Building Adult Capability

21 How are Lethbridge’s young children doing? What the research tells us Presented to: SACPA Presented by: La Vonne Rideout and Dr. Robbin Gibb Date: February 19, 2015 © 2015 Early Child Development Mapping Project

22 22 Working together in Alberta

23 Putting together the data Socio- Economic Status Community Resources EDI Community Maps and Reports

24 ECD communities in Alberta Edmonton Calgary

25 Coalitions provide unique input  100 mobilized throughout Alberta  established community boundaries in a province where there are no common boundaries  provided an equal voice at the table for all sectors in the community  contributed to research and put the data to work

26 Who sits on coalitions Adapted from ECMap’s Final Report.

27 The EDI Population-based measure Surveys how children are doing in communities and across Alberta Not about individual children Questionnaires filled out by kindergarten teachers

28 EDI: 2009 to 2013  gathered twice by 135 school authorities  approximately 1,100 schools involved  86,564 questionnaires collected; 70,206 questionnaires usable  two rounds collected in each community and merged to form baseline results

29 EDI categories Developing appropriately: most or all developmental skills appropriate by kindergarten; above the 25 th percentile or top 75 per cent Experiencing difficulty: probable delays in some areas of development; between the 10 th and 25 th percentile Experiencing great difficulty: significant delays in development; below the 10 th percentile or bottom 10 per cent

30 Five areas of development Alberta EDI results (2009-2013), ECMap 70,206 questionnaires Please note: Percentages may not always add up to exactly 100% due to rounding or missing data. June 2014 (Updated)

31 Great difficulty in ONE or more areas of development Great difficulty in TWO or more areas of development Alberta Canada Alberta falling behind the Canadian norm Alberta EDI results (2009-2013), ECMap

32 73.1% in ALL FIVE areas of development Alberta Developing appropriately 32 Alberta EDI data (2009-2013), ECMap 16.4% Communities Lowest community ALBERTAHighest community 46.4%

33  Less than half (46 per cent) are developing appropriately in all five areas of development.  Nearly 29 per cent experience great difficulty in one or more areas and nearly 15 per cent experience great difficulty in two or more.  This does not include children with diagnosed severe disabilities. Alberta baseline results

34 Lethbridge Early Development Instrument (EDI) baseline results Source: Early Child Development Mapping Project (ECMap), April 2014









43 SEI: It’s not just about income

44  Socio-economic status of communities has been related to EDI results.  Children generally scored higher on the EDI in communities with positive SEI and lower in communities with lower SEI. The socio-economic connection

45 Largest # experiencing difficulties found in middle SEI communities Total number EGD1+ 20,116

46  23,100+ community resources identified by coalitions and mapped  higher socio-economic index (SEI) linked to greater frequency of resources  more study needed to understand connection between resources and EDI Resources tied to SEI

47 ECD community resources  include programs and services, informal supports and physical features  identified by coalitions  total: 23,600

48 Early Child Development Mapping Project (ECMap) September 2013 Early life experiences are critical in building a solid foundation for life. Building a strong foundation

49 49 Children grow up in an environment of relationships Families play a primary role.

50  safe, walkable  well-designed playgrounds, recreational facilities and green spaces  quality, accessible child care and early learning opportunities  access to affordable, nutritious food  supportive social networks  welcoming & inclusive 50 Importance of communities

51  comprehensive, accessible health care,  good parental leave policies  family friendly employment standards  job training and adequate wages, so parents can look after their families  high quality early care and learning standards  coordinated services for young children and families 51 Impact of society

52 Weighing the benefits of positive development school success better jobs earn more physically and mentally healthier stable relationships better parent better coping skills struggle in school high school dropout lower paying jobs acute and chronic illnesses commit crime addictions + _

53 Why is it important to have data on how young children are doing? Understanding → Action

54 Summary  Thousands of young children in Alberta are not reaching their potential.  This represents a big loss in a province that has the fastest growing population of preschool children in Canada.  All communities have young children who are struggling.  Communities care passionately about their children.

55 Final Recommendations  Continue to gather EDI data as part of a comprehensive early childhood development (ECD) monitoring system for Alberta  Support the continuation of community coalitions in using research data for community and provincial action planning for ECD in AB  Ensure healthy, nurturing environments are available for all children regardless of socio-economic status, disabilities, family circumstances, cultural backgrounds or geographic location in the province

56 Recommendations cont’d  Develop a strategy to increase general knowledge and understanding of ECD in communities across Alberta  Establish a provincial secretariat of Human Early Learning and Development with a cross- departmental mandate on ECD  Re-examine the current qualifications for professionals in early education and improve knowledge about ECD in related fields

57 Check out the LiveAtlas Maps/Pages/LiveAtlas.aspx

58 For more information …

59 Champion for Children Make Alberta’s Children non- negiotable To access ECMap’s research data, reports and materials go to To access ECMap’s research data, reports and materials go to

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