It’s about the role early intervention plays in closing the achievement gap among children. He’s not talking about traditional models like pre-Kindergarten for four year olds. Instead, he discusses the benefits of programs targeting at-risk parents – home visits that begin during pregnancy, and continue through infancy.
Why? Because research tells us that those first few months of life are some of the most important for human development. It is the time when children’s memory templates are formed. Memory templates are unique neural networks that once created govern reactions to similar experiences across the lifespan.
Each person has a finite number of these templates. That’s because there is a limit to the number of neural networks the brain can create. It cannot build a new neural network- a memory template- for every new experience. So it reserves this capacity for truly unique events. Events that are even vaguely familiar are interpreted as current versions of already existing networks.
Memory templates for most of the sensory, motor, emotional, and cognitive elements of life are established by age four. From then on, future experiences simply provide repetitive stimulation of previously established networks.
That’s why early intervention is so important. When children’s first experiences are abusive or traumatizing in some way, their memory templates are distorted. As a result, these children carry negative expectations into future interactions. This leads to behaviors and feelings that make sense to them, but are in fact self-defeating.
With the right support, some children alter and replace their faulty memory templates. But many cannot.
It’s hard to change the mind of a traumatized child.
Better to prevent the damage from occurring. Intervention aimed helping at-risk parents is a good place to start. It’s a strategy for closing the achievement gap with a high probability of success.
To read Nicholas Kristof’s article go to:
For more information on early intervention programs for at risk parents visit these websites:
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