Joel Ryan, the Executive Director of the Washington State Association of Head Start and Early Childhood Education & Assistance Program (ECEAP) was our speaker at one of our June 2016 meetings. In my opinion, the information that Mr. Ryan presented are immeasurably important. This knowledge can be exploited to significantly improve the lives of future generations, and our society as a whole.
The presentation includes results of recent studies that show one’s academic ability throughout life is determined in the first three years. Academic ability is related to many other factors such as happiness, prosperity, achievement and self esteem. This figure shows the reason why.
If I interpret this figure correctly, the number of synapses formed are approximately 80% complete for Sensory pathways, 70% complete for language and 40% complete for Higher Cognitive Function by the end of the first year! Mr. Ryan explained that the separation between individuals abilities during this time is most closely correlated to the amount and quality of human interaction. The “nurture vs. nature” issue was not discussed, however, it would seem that this information suggests good nurturing during the first years would have the effect of maximizing the potential of whatever nature blessed a child with.
This information puts a huge explanation point on the irreversible importance of parental actions respecting the infant during pregnancy and early childhood. And it is reason to rethink education and family support. Waiting until children reach kindergarten is too late. Mr. Ryan explained how this has lead to emphasis on the Early Childhood Education & Assistance Program (ECEAP), and the fact that much more thought and action needs to occur to help insure that young families are provided the needed education and tools.
It seems that this is an opportunity for Rotary to find ways to be a positive force to achieve maximization of the potential and happiness of our youth! A straw-man idea would be to teach our youth this information through our Interact and Rotaract clubs.
Here is the slideshow for Mr. Ryan’s presentation. He provide some other sources of information: Thrive Washington, the Zero to Three Organization, The Think Babies organization, what NWEA is, and what the RIT scale is. Here is the link to the WSA Head Start & ECEAP website.