Mind really matters

LEWISTOWN – Recent research demonstrates that who we are as adults is largely shaped by our earliest childhood experiences. A child learns more during the first three years than during any other time of life. At birth, an infant is born with billions of brain cells that begin to form critical connections. During the first eight months development, a child may have up to 1 quadrillion connections.

According to a press release by Snyder Union Mifflin Child Development Inc., sometime after the first year, the brain begins to eliminate unused connections, cutting the connections to 500 trillion. How parents respond to an infant directly impacts the types of connections that will be made.

All interactions, whether positive or negative, influence how the brain is wired. Infants who experience positive interactions develop connections that allow them, as adults, to think using their cortex, the most complex area of the brain. A brain that is exposed to negative interactions is wired to respond to situations by using the limbic, a less complex area.

Parents of the Healthy Families America program participated in a simulated brain building training on July 17 at Lewistown Children’s Center. The training reflected the correlation between parental responses to an infant’s needs and brain development. Groups of parents were provided with written parent-child interaction scenarios and how these scenarios could affect brain development. The parents built simulated brains to demonstrate the effects of these interactions. One parent said that, “I wish I would have known these things when my 22-year-old was a baby, not for me, but for her.”

As a follow up to the training and as a reminder to parents, HFA home visitors will provide parents participating in the program an opportunity to build their own simulated healthy developed brains.

Healthy Families America, a voluntary program for first-time parents, provides support to new parents, education about child development and connections to community resources. HFA is managed by Snyder Union Mifflin Child Development Inc. SUMCD is a private, non-profit organization that provides early care and education services to nearly 3,000 children and families at 22 sites in Snyder, Union, Mifflin and Northumberland counties. For more information, visit www.sumcd.org or call 242-3032. SUMCD is a United Way agency.