Why Birth to Three is a Critical Time for Brain Development
Matthew Melmed, Executive Director, ZERO TO THREE explains why birth to three is a critical time in a child’s brain development, especially the first two years. Melmed also shares the importance of relationships between a child and parent/caregiver.
"We are honored to be joined by Matthew Melmed, who is Executive Director of a great organization called ZERO TO THREE, which was started 40 years ago? That's right. Dedicated to? To making sure that every baby has a healthy start in life. Yeah. Well, this is part of a series that we're doing, a whole comprehensive series of programs that examine the issues that you're talking about. Our series is... this campaign, if you will, is called Right From the Start NJ, and we encourage you to go to our website that you'll see up here, but you'll also see the ZERO TO THREE site as well. Matthew, one of the issues we've talked about a lot over the phone and in meetings getting ready for this is quote, "brain development" - if you will. Birth to three. What are we talking about? We've learned a tremendous amount in the last, really 15 years, from neuroscience, about the critical importance of the early years of life. And what that science is telling us is that the early relationships and experiences we have as babies and as toddlers literally form the architecture of our brain, and that we know that a million synapses are being formed every second, and we know that some get stronger and some get weaker, really based upon the nature of those kinds of experiences and interactions we have with the adults in our lives. And that, in turn, lays the foundation for who we become as adults. It's like building a house. Hmm. If we have a weak foundation, we're going to be able to make repairs later on, but it's gonna cost a lot more and cause a lot more challenges. But if we get things right at the start, we have a very very strong foundation upon which to build. From a public policy point of view, is this a public policy question of infants, toddlers, zero to three? I mean is this a public policy question? Absolutely no question. How so? Because... and people don't naturally make that link. They'll go like, "Yeah, we'll take care of your kid." No? That's not it? Right, right! [laughter] It's not that's simple? But if you really look at what the science is telling us, where we need to be investing in terms of providing support and an education for parents, is really in the earliest months and years of life. Because that does lay the foundation. And what we find is that when you have a baby in the United States, it's sort of a little bit like the Wild West. You're there on your own. There's no real support for you. Try to get..."