What cutting-edge neuroscience tells us about early childhood development

Article Summary:

After Vice President Joe Biden mentioned the “word gap” on the national debate stage, Dr. Dana Suskind saw an opportunity to help raise awareness about the life-altering power of parent language and interaction in a child’s earliest years. In this article, she explores how the 1995 Hart and Risley study, which first described a “word gap,” helped to mobilize many to seek a better understanding of how conversation relates to children’s development.

“…cutting-edge neuroscience that clearly demonstrates that the early language environment is the catalyst for healthy brain development. Just as an infant needs physical nourishment in the form of milk to grow and thrive, they need social nourishment in the form of language to ensure intellectual growth,” she writes.

She explores several studies which shed light on how children acquire language and why linguistic interaction with adults matters during the first few years of life: “Unlike any other organ, the brain is unfinished at birth and its development is dependent on two major factors: genetics and early experience, and their lifelong effects on one another. While genetics supply our basic blueprints, science strongly indicates that achieving the potential included in the blueprint, no matter how incredible, is largely determined by a child’s earliest language environment.”