Maria and her husband arrived at the Lourie Center for Children’s Social and Emotional Health of Adventist HealthCare in 2018, searching for answers for their then two-year-old middle son, Lucas.
Their beds are packed, busy with wrestling matches, full of outdoor adventures, and completely covered in Legos. They definitely love their mess. And while Lucas is a wonderful young component of that cheerful family—intelligent, caring, silly, loving and extremely inquisitive—he had a very difficult time adjusting to the daily shifts between activities and interactions. He also had speech delays and had challenges with daily communication. Lucas needs help. So did Maria and her husband. They were referred to the Lowry Center in Rockville, Maryland, outside Washington, D.C.
The Lourie Therapeutic Nursery Program offers a comprehensive early childhood program that provides clinical education and services. It is inspired by attachment theory, to support children and their families dealing with a range of social, emotional, mental and behavioral health needs.
Lucas’ teachers and therapeutic staff at Lowry Center have been able to provide remarkably attentive care and education to Lucas. However, his journey was not without setbacks. When COVID-19 hit, Lucas was deeply shaken by the lockdowns. The isolation from his friends, beloved teachers, and changes in routine all affected his ability to organize. It would not have continued to thrive without the personal support of the team of caring teachers and counselors at The Lourie Center who worked tirelessly to assist him during those turbulent months.
Since then, Lucas has grown into a fun and confident learner. He is happily preparing for kindergarten next fall. Approximately 80 percent of young children who attend Lowry’s Therapeutic Nursery Program will upgrade to a traditional kindergarten setting. This is an exceptional achievement since the program only accepts children who need behavioral, cognitive, social, emotional and mental health support.
Critics say such services are too expensive to reach the masses, and that providing this type of specialized support is already costly. However, societal savings greatly outweigh the initial costs. Keep in mind that the annual cost of K-12 Private education Almost triple “public education”: $26,000 versus $9,000 per student in California, for example.
Furthermore, children who are expelled in preschool or early primary school are 10 times more likely to be imprisoned. These subsequent societal costs could have been avoided if nurturing attention had been provided to children in their early years to regulate their emotions and relieve toxic stress, which often results from exposure to trauma. Preschool classrooms with behavioral counseling services, such as the Early Childhood and Infants Mental Health Counseling (IECMHC), reported significantly lower expulsion rates.
It is difficult to assess the value of the human potential unleashed by early education and social and emotional interventions: it is arguably limitless. After all, Albert Einstein also suffered from speech delays and received a specialized (special) education to prepare for elementary school.
There are many children like Lucas in America for whom early education and targeted social and emotional support can help mitigate the effects of emotional distress, disorganization or trauma, and change the course of a child’s life forever. There is a lot going on since the arrival of COVID-19.
The research team at Rapid-EC, the Early Childhood and Family Wellbeing Survey launched in April 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, led by Dr. Phil Fisher at the University of Oregon, has been tracking child well-being weekly since the start of the pandemic. Emotional distress in children under the age of five more than doubled.
Yale University professor, Dr. Walter Gilliam, recently conducted a survey of 50,000 preschool teachers across the country. It found that 56 percent reported that children became more aggressive, hyperactive, or oppositional than they were before, and 55 percent reported that children were more shy, withdrawn, or anxious.
For me, meeting Maria during the pandemic led to the profound realization that we had hammered the wrong nail in American education for too long. We’ve focused our energies, resources, and talents on the K-12 years — specifically, K-12 schools, and even more narrowly, individual K-12 cognitive scores, such as reading or math. What kids – Lucas included – need is a solid foundation, built around stable, nurturing relationships with parents, grandparents, teachers, friends young and old, mentors and more. It does not help hammering on a shaky basis. What the pandemic has shown us is that we also need a new modern redesign in education, a refocusing on the core of our social brains and resilience: human connections. This is what is called the Lowry Center roadblock, also known as love.
Build a solid foundation
Even before the global COVID-19 pandemic, the majority (58 percent) of all American children aged 3-5 years were not “healthy and ready to learn.” The health and educational readiness gaps that accumulate before the age of five fuel achievement gaps in education from kindergarten to secondary education. Most young children who are left behind are likely to survive or be left behind. Our current K-12 system is doing a good job at stability Gaps, but they do not succeed in Close With them. I am not suggesting that we remove the hammer, but instead build a stronger foundation for the K-12 to be more effective. The truth is that a lot of kids are already starting to get late.
If we take a group of 100 kids from low-income backgrounds, only 48 will enter kindergarten fully prepared. Most of the 52 children left behind will stay for life, but a few will catch up through the kindergarten years through 12th grade. Simply put, the early years gap is the biggest source of inequality in our education system, arguably our society.
Because the majority of our children aren’t “fully healthy and ready to learn,” we’re smashing a lot of our human talent potential as a nation. A deep body of research demonstrates that children who enter kindergarten unprepared are less likely to finish high school, attend college, be in a stable relationship into adulthood, more likely to be incarcerated, rely on social benefits, be unemployed, and have long-term health problems.
Congress was making a historic investment in the early years. While legislative discussions have recently stalled, advocacy efforts continue to mobilize toward an ambitious policy package that will affect millions of young learners and families.
The future of learning focuses on communication
The science is clear that children need at least one stable, nurturing relationship to thrive, and that relationships can help overcome trauma, especially in the early years. Relationships are associated with better academic outcomes. The American Academy of Pediatrics urges the promotion of relational health to build resilience and ward off toxic stress in children. But the reality is worrying: Even in the pre-pandemic period, more than one in three children did not have an adult caring relationship.
The web of relationships fades around young learners: smaller family sizes, fewer adult friends of family, greater isolation, fewer contacts with adults, more time for children and parents on the Internet, and a race to college that starts too early with kids who are overscheduled. Less time to play and build healthy relationships. The depth of these connections, in addition to their breadth, is also diminishing. Emotional contact between mother and child has been cut by half during the pandemic.
Starting in 2022, we need to reimagine The future of learning to be relational About Key Relationship Pillars (“PTLM”).
- sarents and family through greater support and promotion of responsive and nurturing parents;
- Teach student through relationship-focused schools that are inclusive and trauma-sensitive;
- thedeceive friends through increased play and the promotion of kindness;
- MAttract adults into neighborhoods, activities, and communities, including intergenerational programs. An interesting recent proposal calls for an intergenerational “caring legion” of 1 million adults who support young learners.
Beyond the school walls, city design, as well as child-centred technologies and relationships, play a role in helping us connect – and reconnect with our humanity.
Just as we have the concept of “zero emissions” or “zero waste” in climate change, it is time to achieve “zero potential human waste,” a world in which every child, like Lucas, learns, thrives through nurturing relationships and is empowered to reach their full potential.