Decades of rigorous research show that children’s earliest experiences play a critical role in brain development. The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University has summarized this research –
- Neural circuits, which create the foundation for learning, behavior and health, are most flexible or “plastic” during the first three years of life. Over time, they become increasingly difficult to change.
- Persistent “toxic” stress, such as extreme poverty, abuse and neglect, or severe maternal depression can damage the developing brain, leading to lifelong problems in learning, behavior, and physical and mental health.
- The brain is strengthened by positive early experiences, especially stable relationships with caring and responsive adults, safe and supportive environments, and appropriate nutrition.
- Early social/ emotional development and physical health provide the foundation upon which cognitive and language skills develop.
- High quality early intervention services can change a child’s developmental trajectory and improve outcomes for children, families, and communities.
- Intervention is likely to be more effective and less costly when it is provided earlier in life rather than later.
Importance of Early Intervention Services
Positive early experiences are essential prerequisites for later success in school, the workplace, and the community. Services to young children who have or are at risk for developmental delays have been shown to positively impact outcomes across developmental domains, including health, language and communication, cognitive development and social/emotional development. Families benefit from early intervention by being able to better meet their children’s special needs from an early age and throughout their lives. Benefits to society include reducing economic burden through a decreased need for special education.