Wednesday, September 09, 2015

that early childhood vocabulary is IQ determinative...,

theatlantic |  Re­search sug­gests that poor chil­dren hear about 600 words per hour, while af­flu­ent chil­dren hear 2,000. By age 4, a poor child has a listen­ing vocab­u­lary of about 3,000 words, while a wealth­i­er child wields a 20,000-word listen­ing vocab­u­lary. So it’s no sur­prise that poor chil­dren tend to enter kinder­garten already be­hind their wealth­i­er peers. But it’s not just the poverty that holds them back—it’s the lack of words. In fact, the single-best pre­dict­or of a child’s aca­dem­ic suc­cess is not par­ent­al edu­ca­tion or so­cioeco­nom­ic status, but rather the qual­ity and quantity of the words that a baby hears dur­ing his or her first three years.

Those early years are crit­ic­al. By age three, 85 per­cent of neur­al con­nec­tions are formed, mean­ing it’s dif­fi­cult for a child who has heard few words to catch up to his peers once he enters the school sys­tem.

While the word gap might sound like an edu­ca­tion prob­lem, the health consequences can be dire—and the be­ne­fits of elim­in­at­ing it can be im­mense. Pub­lic-health of­fi­cials in Geor­gia re­cog­nize this.

“This is pure bio­logy,” Brenda Fitzger­ald, Geor­gia’s Health Com­mis­sion­er and the wo­man in charge of state pub­lic-health pro­grams, said dur­ing an in­ter­view at her At­lanta of­fice. “Which is why it’s a pub­lic-health ini­ti­at­ive.”

Chil­dren with more words do bet­ter in school. Adults who were good stu­dents and earned a col­lege de­gree have longer life ex­pect­an­cies. They are at a lower risk for hy­per­ten­sion, de­pres­sion, and sleep prob­lems. They are less likely to be smokers and to be obese.

“There is no way we can sep­ar­ate health and edu­ca­tion,” said Jen­nifer Stapel-Wax, dir­ect­or of in­fant and tod­dler clin­ic­al re­search op­er­a­tions at the Mar­cus Aut­ism Cen­ter in At­lanta, and the self-de­scribed “chief cheer­lead­er” for the effort.
* * *
So in Geor­gia, from the gov­ernor’s of­fice on down to nurses and WIC (Wo­men, In­fants, and Chil­dren) clin­ics like the one the Pate boys vis­ited in Ma­con, the solu­tion and the mes­sage are clear: Talk with your baby (and help im­prove the state’s well-be­ing).

That second part is not touted much, but doc­tors and nurses be­hind the cam­paign hope that by en­ga­ging par­ents in the first part early and of­ten, the second part will fol­low—and they can al­le­vi­ate the need for costly in­ter­ven­tions down the line.