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Understanding the Early Years: Red Deer Preliminary Research Results Forum December 1, 2009 The Understanding the Early Years: Red Deer Project is funded.

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Presentation on theme: "Understanding the Early Years: Red Deer Preliminary Research Results Forum December 1, 2009 The Understanding the Early Years: Red Deer Project is funded."— Presentation transcript:

1 Understanding the Early Years: Red Deer Preliminary Research Results Forum December 1, 2009 The Understanding the Early Years: Red Deer Project is funded by the Government of Canada’s Understanding the Early Years Initiative.

2 What is Understanding the Early Years (UEY)?  A national initiative funded by the Government of Canada in over 40 Canadian locations.  Through community research, UEY provides community members with information so as to better understand the needs of young children and their families.  Enables community members to work together to address those needs, to help children to thrive.  Seeks to answer the question, “What family and community factors affect children’s development?”

3 Why are the Early Years important? The early years are critical for children’s development well-being, and readiness to learn at school. Arriving at school ‘not ready to learn’ can have life long impacts. There is strong evidence from many years of research that the years from 0-6 are the most significant time in an individual’s life, setting the stage for later results in literacy, high school completion, employment, health, literacy, behaviour and quality of life. Capacity to learn when entering school is strongly influenced by the neural ‘wiring’ that takes place in the early years. Young children’s family and community are key influences on overall development and outcomes

4 "One-quarter of Canada's children between birth and age 6 are experiencing some learning or behavioural difficulty. These problems in the early years have been shown to correlate with later difficulties in school performance, social adjustment and health." McCain, Mustard and Shanker (2007)

5 Brain Connections Synaptic Density: Synapses are created with astonishing speed in the first three years of life. For the rest of the first decade, children’s brains have twice as many synapses as adults’ brains. From Rethinking the Brain: New Insights into Early Development by Rima Shore (NY: Families and Work Institute, 1997). (Drawing supplied by H.T. Chugani)

6 Binocular vision High Low Years Habitual ways of responding Language Emotional control Symbol Peer social skills Relative quantity Central auditory system Hertzman, 2007 ‘Sensitive periods’ in early Brain Development

7 Investing in Early Childhood Development: The Economic Imperative The real question is how to use the available funds wisely. The best evidence supports the policy prescription: Invest in the very young.” James J. Heckman, PhD 2000 Nobel Laureate in Economic Sciences Leading economists have shown the importance of Early Childhood Development to our province and country’s economic future. Knowledge is the engine of the 21st century economy. Better brains and innovative ideas fuel economic growth, create jobs, increase wealth, and secure our financial future.

8 Opportunity Lost... Addressing the Mismatch Between Opportunity & Investment Adapted from: “How Nurture Becomes Nature: The Influence of Social Structures on Brain Development” Bruce Perry, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas.

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10 Model of Development: A Holistic Framework 10

11 For Parents and Children:  Helps decision-makers to better understand the needs of children and families in our city.  Helps parents better understand ways to enhance their children’s development in the early years.  Identifies factors that will help children to thrive. For Communities:  Provides a catalyst to work together on behalf of families and children.  Provides financial support for early childhood events and information Benefits of an Understanding the Early Years Project

12 For Governments:  Informs policy and program development related to early childhood development and community engagement. For Educators:  Helps determine the factors that impact on children’s readiness to learn and success upon arrival at school.  Can provide information to guide decision-making and allocation of resources.  Results can assist in long-term planning Benefits of an Understanding the Early Years Project con’t

13 Key Messages About research Knowledge gathered from local research should form the basis for policy-making. Policy and decision-making should be evidence based. UEY Red Deer examines… –What family and community factors affect children’s readiness to learn at school? –How ready to learn at school are Red Deer’s young children? –Are there sufficient programs and services for young children in Red Deer, in order for all children to thrive? –Are there gaps in services that need to be addressed? –Are there barriers to using these existing programs, such as cost or transportation? –Are existing programs and services located in the neighborhoods where most young children live? 13

14 By the end of the UEY Red Deer Project, Red Deer will have: Quality local research information about how Red Deer’s young children are doing, which can guide decision making An increased understanding of the importance of early development An increased ability to partner and collaborate with others working for positive experiences for children A collaborative community action plan for children 0-6.

15 Community Based Research Inventory of Community Resources and Services for Children 0-6 Parents Interviews & Direct Assessments of Children Survey (PIDACS) Census data from Statistics Canada (2006) Early Development Instrument (EDI) The Four UEY Research Activities

16  Participation is voluntary.  Signed parental consent is obtained  Privacy is always an important concern: all information collected is kept confidential, is protected and is used only for statistical purposes Data Collection Considerations

17 The results of the four research activities are analyzed to:  Measure children’s early development before they enter school  Show how family and community influences have an impact on child development in the early years  Profile the types and availability of community resources for families and children  Assess how well the needs of families with young children are being met  Learn more about how research can be used at the local level to bring about improvements for children Analyzing the Research Results

18 What has UEY Research Shown in previous Studies?  No single family or community factor is the magic answer for improving children’s development.  However, positive childhood development and school readiness are found in families that function well in the following areas: Parents who use positive approaches to parenting. Families who are involved in learning activities. Families who use community programs and resources. Families who are in good mental health. Families who have a high level of social support and live in communities where neighbours support each other.

19 The Community Action Plan, a key product of Red Deer UEY :  is a collaborative planning process with the community-with anyone interested in improving Red Deer’s children’s well-being  is based on results of the research  identifies concrete steps that community members can take to address gaps and community strengths identified by the research  Aims to provide the best possible approaches so that Red Deer’s young children can thrive. Research, Knowledge, Action

20 “If the children and youth of a nation are afforded opportunity to develop their capacities to the fullest, if they are given the knowledge to understand the world and the wisdom to change it, then the prospects for the future are bright. In contrast, a society which neglects its children, however well it may function in other respects, risks eventual disorganization and demise.” -Urie Bronfenbrenner, Psychologist and co-founder of Head Start

21 For more information, contact Laurie Lafortune, Red Deer Understanding the Early Years Coordinator at Family Services of Central Alberta: Research summaries and reports will be available at Thank you for your participation!

22 WEBSITES Family Services of Central Alberta The Offord Centre for Child Studies Council for Early Child Development Healthy Child Manitoba Human Early Learning Partnership, UBC


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