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EARLY BRAIN DEVELOPMENT – 12 TO 18 MONTHS

With the exception of sight, most of the critical periods of human brain development are open during this stage.  At no other time in a person’s life is the brain more receptive and responsive to its environment.  During this time and over the next two years, many of the neurological foundations that govern a lifetime of skills and potential will be determined.  In other words, how a child learns and processes information for the rest of his/her life is going to be determined.

“Wow, you might say, this puts a tremendous burden on me.  I’m no teacher or scientist.  I want to do the best for my child, but I’m not sure I’m capable.”  I say to you that virtually every parent is capable, and it takes very little of your time to enhance your child’s intellectual development.

As human beings, we instinctively know what to do to advance intelligence and have down through the ages.  Parents have interacted with their baby with love, praise, play, conversation, and song as far back as we know.   Today, with all of our science and educational research, we know these things are still basic.  However, over the last 3 decades, we have learned many simple things that we can work into our everyday life that will enhance the child’s intellectual development.

Remember that it is very important to provide a positive learning environment because children develop their brain through experiences.  Bad negative experiences can badly damage a child’s learning ability.

Below are a few tips to enhance your child’s intellectual development.

  1. Enhance the child’s language development by being a chatty, always explaining mom/caregiver.  Talk, talk, talk, and then talk some more.  “This is your red ball.  This is your yellow duck.  We’re going to wear our red dress and red socks today.  You will look so pretty.”  Not only will your child learn to identify things but will learn colors as naturally as she learns to talk.
  2. Provide appropriate, simple picture books.  I prefer books that have a simple picture and a word description (picture of cat with word “cat” in big letters).
  3. Many parents are aware of the importance of language development, but are not as aware of the importance of math during this critical period.  When bathing your child, you can count the fingers on his hand. “Let’s count our fingers.  We have 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 on this hand and … on this hand.”  You can count the toys in his play area. “Let’s pick up our toys.  We have one yellow duck, blue bear makes two, and black cat makes three.”  Young children can develop math skills as naturally as they can the language skills.
  4. Have fun with a variety of music, games (peek-a-boo, roll a ball back and forth), and rhythms. These fun things can develop so many things like language, vocabulary, math, music, attention span, spatial/visual skills, and social/emotional skills.  The greatest gift is the bonding between adult and child.  This has a tremendous impact on a child’s learning.
  5. Allow your child to explore his surroundings.  Do not keep your child penned-up in a swing or playpen all the time.  It is important that he has time by himself to explore.  Corner off a larger safe area for her.  Put together an “everyday junk box” of items to feel, poke, and squeeze.   You might have measuring cups of different sizes, pans, spoons, cups, tissue paper, egg cartons, shoe box, and favorite toys.
  6. Around 18 months, a child may get anxious and clinging about being separated from parents and caregivers.  This behavior is normal.  If possible, minimize separations and stick to consistent routines.

Donna D. Blevins, Founder of Be Smart Kids

Be Smart Kids is a system of 30-minute weekly lesson plans for children, ages 1-6, that enhances the intellectual development of children.  (See research)

What Parents Can Do – Birth to 6 Months

Whether you are breast-feeding or bottle-feeding your baby, changing diapers, giving a bath, or softly singing as you rock your baby to sleep, know that this is a special time!

These everyday moments, these simple loving encounters, are providing essential nourishment. Just as their bodies need food to grow, science now tells us that the positive emotional, physical, and intellectual experiences that babies have in the earliest years are equally necessary for the growth of a healthy brain.  Here are some ways that you can enhance your baby’s brain development:

Hug and cuddle your baby.  Make feeding time a special time.  Being held and cuddled frequently is extremely important in the building of baby’s sense of self-worth and will encourage them to try new things.

Hold your baby when feeding. The baby’s vision is most clear at about 10 inches–the distance between your eyes and hers when feeding.

Providing stimulation for a baby’s vision is very important.  Expose babies to bright colored pictures, moving objects, and toys.  Hang mobiles over the crib and play area.  Provide crib gyms, and objects for them to grab at or kick.

Talk and sing to your baby during bath, feeding, and play time. When your baby makes a sound, repeat it.  Smile and talk about the things you’re doing together.  Hearing your voice helps your baby begin to learn language.

Read aloud to your child.  Babies enjoy cuddling on your lap, looking at colorful picture books, and hearing the rhythm of your voice. Introduce cardboard or washable cloth books with brightly colored pictures.  At this point, your baby might enjoy chewing the books more than being read to!

Provide an environment rich with sound.  Help infants learn to identify and name such things as a vacuum cleaner, radio, clock, tea kettle, or doorbell.

Play music during the day.  Expose your baby to many different musical selections of various styles. If you play an instrument, practice when your baby is nearby. But keep the volume moderate.

Provide interesting objects for infants to feel, touch, mouth, and explore.  Keep easy-to-swallow objects out of infant’s reach.

Play peek-a-boo.  It teaches that you come back when you go away.

Respond to your baby’s needs and do not worry about spoiling your child at this stage.

Have your baby’s hearing checked.   Babies with hearing problems don’t get the language experience they need. If your baby has a hearing loss, he or she may need a specialist’s help. The earlier hearing problems are identified and corrected, the better.

And remember that brain development begins before birth. Nutrition makes a big difference in brain development even before the baby is born. Women who are pregnant should eat nutritious foods, avoid alcohol and other drugs, and have regular prenatal care to help ensure that their babies are born healthy.

EARLY YEARS ARE LEARNING YEARS

Human beings are unique among the world of animal species.  Most life comes into this world genetically programmed for survival; cattle stand and walk within minutes if not hours of being born; most birds are flying within six weeks of hatching; and other species are born with teeth and claws.  We all have experienced the fun of watching a kitten at play stalking and attacking a sibling or a ball of yarn as if it was some prey in the wild.  I once had an Australian Shepherd dog that I would take jogging with me.  Even as a pup, it would lower its head and “snake” back and forth as though nipping at the heels of the cattle it was bred to herd.

Humans, on the other hand, come into this world almost completely defenseless.  A blob of flesh with no teeth, almost blind, and it seems that all a newborn can do is eat, poop, and cry.  It takes a baby some time to learn how to roll over, then to crawl, about ten to twelve months to learn to walk, and about a year to learn to say a few words.  And we celebrate every milestone!  The key point here is that the baby is “learning” these things.  Some parents feel they can accelerate the process and try to “teach” their child to talk or walk.  If they are intense about it, they find that it can be like the old saying about “teaching a pig to sing” – it just annoys the pig and frustrates you.

The fact is children are learning at a rapid rate.   They are using all their senses: seeing, listening, tasting, smelling, and touching, to learn about the new world they are in and the people that occupy it.  As they do, they are strengthening neural networks or neural pathways and forming new ones.  The development of networks is going on mostly unseen by parents and caregivers, but happening none the less.  It is common to hear parents proudly boast about their child who “just started to talk” and right away they were saying eight to ten new words.  The reality is the child had learned those words and many more but hadn’t yet to possessed the oral skill to be able to voice them.

Sometimes I think that God has a sense of humor.  He gave humans the greatest anatomical gift imaginable, the human brain, and then sat back and watched in amusement as we tried to figure out how to use it.  And we, seeing ourselves as physical beings, another species of animal, have learned a great deal about our bodies and our physical world, but only recently have we begun to focus on understanding the workings of the human brain.

Last week, I was studying at a picture of the human eye on the wall of my eye doctor’s office and was intrigued by the detail in the display.  All those “tiny” parts – lens, muscles, blood vessels, and nerve systems – will keep functioning to supply blood and send signals to the brain, for our entire lives.  We continue to make discoveries and increase our knowledge of how to keep our bodies running smoothly and how we can combat illness and disease.  However, the brain, that marvelous gift, has remained a mystery.

Until the last century or so, all that we knew about the brain we learned from autopsies and experiments on animals.  Recently, because of advances in technology and the transition to the “information age,” we are beginning to study and learn more and more about the enormous capacity of the human brain and how it works.

One of the major outgrowths of this learning is the discovery of how important the first few years are for establishing the foundations for all future learning. The implications that has for early childhood development and our responsibilities as parents is tremendous.

Be Smart Kids Launches New Online Learning System

  • Free month of access
  • No Credit Card required to enroll.
  • We do not share your email address.
  • We only email you for account maintenance purposes or at your request.

What is involved in enrolling?

We only need your name, email address and a password. If you decide to continue using Be Smart Kids: Cloud, we’ll ask for a payment after your free period has expired.

We give you 31 days of access for only $7.99. It is a pay-as-you-go service. You can purchase an entire year of access for $79.99 – which will save you $14.99 over an entire year!

Dallas study shows benefits of early childhood education

Fort Worth Star-Telegram

High-quality preschool programs can help children from low-income communities be more successful in elementary school, initial results from a study show.
Researchers found that students in the Dallas school district who had received services from certain early childhood education programs outperformed their classmates from similar backgrounds, officials said.

“What it told us was that first- and second-graders were not only on task but exceeded the average in math and reading. That was critical to us because we know that just because they’re poor doesn’t mean they can’t learn,” said Merriott Terry, president and chief executive officer of Educational First Steps, a Dallas nonprofit organization that sponsored the study.

The study was conducted by the University of Texas at Dallas, and more complete results are expected next month.

Background

The study looked at students in kindergarten through second grade who had attended preschool centers affiliated with Educational First Steps.

An analysis of data showed that those students scored higher on standardized tests in reading and math than their peers, said Richard Scotch, professor of sociology and public policy at UT-Dallas.

Educational First Steps supports early childhood education for disadvantaged children up to age 5.

The group works with about 70 Dallas-area child-care centers to improve educational programs by providing one-on-one mentoring and training to teachers, supplying learning tools and materials, and giving teacher scholarships for certificates and degrees in early childhood education.

Summit

The impact of high-quality early education, particularly for lower-income children, will be a key topic Friday at the Early Education Summit at the World Trade Center in Dallas. The event is expected to draw more than 150 community leaders, elected officials and child-care administrators.

On Saturday, nearly 350 area caregivers and early education providers will meet for a daylong conference at the trade center. Registration is closed for the summit.

Online: www.childcaregroup.org , www.educationalfirststeps.org

http://www.star-telegram.com/dallas_blanks/story/882756.html

Posted on Thu, Sep. 04, 2008
By JESSAMY BROWN – jessamybrown@star-telegram.com

Overcoming Autism – A Case Study

Most early brain development disorders now come under an umbrella called Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  One in every 68 children is said to have some form of it.  These disorders are more prevalent in boys (1 in 44).

It is critical that the parent/teacher begins an intervention program with these children immediately.  The earlier you begin the more success you will have.  Too often parents send so much time with doctors and tests that this incredible “window of opportunity” to take corrective measures is missed.

WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY

How do children learn?  Scientist and educators tells us how children learn and process information for the rest of their lives depends on how we stimulate their brains in the early years, ages 0- 5.     When we stimulate the brain of the young child and the neurons fire often enough, a permanent connection is formed. Connections used regularly become stronger and more complex.  Connections not used are pruned away. The brain is built on a “use it or lose it” basis especially in the early years.  The more connections, the more work the brain can do.  It is called hard-wiring the brain.  These early years are the greatest learning potential of a person’s life and  the foundation of all future learning.

Case Study

Over the last 20 years, we have taught children who  had various degrees of Autism at the Be Smart Kids Center. They were not drilled.  They only received the lesson once a week for 30 minutes.    I remember one case in which I am extremely proud.   He had just turned 3 when he came to me in 1998.    I always say that he taught me more than I taught him.  He had no speech except for whining, had glazed over eyes with no interaction to any other person, walked on his tiptoes bringing his feet up very high when he walked, and did a lot of flapping with his arms. He would sometimes put his hands over his ears and scream. I would think time and again that he would not be able to accomplish something but I kept going.  He proved me wrong in every instance.  This child graduated number one in his high school and is now attending college.

The same process that I used is available to you.  The Be Smart Kids Learning Process has instructions and tutorials for each weekly lesson.  It is important that you do the computer-based product because the interaction between the computer, adult, and child will produce the best results.

History

Donna Blevins, a mother of three, former teacher, and public official, observed the challenges of the American educational system and resolved to devote herself to improving it. Applying the latest research on early childhood learning and brain development, she began working on her home computer in 1991 to create a unique educational program. The result was a learning system that combined proven teaching methods and computer-aided technology to stimulate the human brain when learning capabilities are optimal.

That first year a computerized curriculum was built and tested by 12 families with young children. Buoyed by the system’s positive impact on the first users, Blevins began offering private lessons using her unique program in 1992.

Throughout the 1990s Blevins and a growing team of experts honed the process through practical use, additional research and development, and technological design improvements. More than 1,500 children were observed and their educational progress tracked as they used the Be Smart Kids learning system. In 1998 Dr. Robert McElrath, former Tennessee Commissioner of Education for Governor Lamar Alexander (who later served as U.S. Secretary of Education), came on board to help assess and build the process.

Ross Perot, owner of world-renowned technology company Perot Systems, was introduced to Be Smart Kids in 1999. An advocate of early childhood learning, he agreed to have his company design and build a computerized model for delivering the process worldwide. Ultimately, more than 50 of Perot’s computer experts from around the world spent nearly two years working on the design and later building the whole system. Perot was so pleased with the final product that he presented Be Smart Kids learning systems to the East Dallas Community Inner-City School, an innovative school that he supports.

With its incorporation in 1998, Be Smart Kids Inc. began opening learning centers, offering private lessons using the trademark learning system. The company also began licensing use of the system and training teachers for on-site learning centers at day care facilities, preschools, Head Start programs, and elementary schools. The home edition of the electronic learning system was introduced in 2001. Today the Be Smart Kids Learning System is in homes worldwide, enabling parents to harness the computer to develop their own child’s love for learning.

Texas Public Education Reform Foundation Summit

Speech by: Donna Blevins, Founder and CEO of Be Smart Kids

I wish to thank the Texas Public Education Reform Foundation for inviting me to speak here today.

Why are we here? We’re here because we are concerned about the quality of education and the impact it will have on our children’s lives. Education is the gauge of progress for any civilization.

In an ever changing world market, we simply are not measuring up. I’ve heard many quotes concerning our educational standing with the rest of the world–20th, 23rd, 24th, 27th and even as high as 29th. Choose your figure, it doesn’t matter, we’re behind. Bottom line, we definitely have a crisis. Our children’s future and the future of this country are in a precarious situation. If America is to survive as a nation and a world leader, we must do a better job of educating our youth–one child at a time. To quote Aristotle "Fate of empires depends on the education of youth."

I often hear people whining (I call it whining) and resolving themselves to this substandard educational level by saying "In America we have to educate everybody and in most countries they don’t have to do that." Let’s stop the excuses; there is a way. We must and can do a better job!

Today, I want to talk about one of the ways we can definitely raise the bar and insure success in school and success in life for America’s future generations. The key is early intervention! I’m a firm believer that we must prepare rather than repair. This is one of my pet phrases and also one of my pet peeves. We must prepare our children, not constantly repair their learning capabilities and education.

How do children learn? Scientist tells us how children learn and process information for the rest of their lives depends on how we stimulate their brains in the early years, ages 0-6. When we stimulate the brain of the young child and the neurons fire often enough, a permanent connection is formed. The more connections, the more work the brain can do. It is called hard-wiring the brain. It’s the greatest learning potential of a person’s life and the foundation for all future learning, a "window of opportunity." A perfect example is Tiger Woods. Why is he so great? His dad had him on the golf course while he was still in diapers. Educators and policy makers have just begun to recognize this great "window of opportunity."

I’m an educator, a former classroom teacher. I’ve been in the trenches. In 1991, I made a personal commitment to spend the rest of my life trying to make a difference in our educational system. Understanding what scientists were saying about the learning potential of this marvelous "window of opportunity" and the advent of technology on the scene, I thought there just might be a way of combining the two with best teaching practices that would enable every child an equal opportunity at a quality education.

Sixteen years later, we have arrived. With lots of help from some very special people, we have in place a proven preschool product that can deliver called Be Smart Kids. It’s an interactive, multi-sensory, fun, computerized, one-on-one learning system that takes advantage of this "window of opportunity" and wires the brain for life-long learning. It’s one-on-one because we understood how very important adult bonding is to a child’s social and emotional development. This process mirrors science and wires the brain for language, vocabulary, math & logic, music, spatial/visual skills, fine motor skills, social & emotional skills, character and a second language (Spanish). To this mix, we added history (because we thought developing a love of country was important), science, health and sign language. It was built into lesson plans so that anyone who was literate could implement it. After all, parents are a child’s first teacher.

During these years, we made a couple of fantastic discoveries: one, it would take only 30 minutes a week per child to implement and two, the results would be and are phenomenal, no matter the background of the child. This opened the door to provide a pathway of success to all children since 70-80% of them are in some type of institutional setting.

Over the last 16 years, thousands of children have received the Be Smart Kids instruction: We’ve provided it to:

Blevins Speaks To Texas Education Conference On ‘Be Smart Kids’ Success Teaching Youngest

Donna Blevins, chairman and CEO of Greeneville-based Be Smart Kids, a company that provides computer software for early-childhood education, was among the speakers at a major educational conference held recently in Austin, Texas.

Blevins was one of the invited speakers at the Texas Public Education Reform Foundation’s 2007 Statewide Education Summit, which was held on Feb. 16.

The event at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Austin had many prominent speakers.

They included: Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer, Inc.; Michael Dell, chairman and CEO of Dell, the computer manufacturer; Ross Perot, chairman of the board emeritus of Perot Systems Corporation; U.S. Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn, both of Texas; former U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige; and William C. Powers, president of the University of Texas in Austin.

The Statewide Education Summit was described as Texas’ “major forum for discussing education reform and improvement.”

Vidal G. Martinez, chairman of the Texas Public Education Reform Foundation, said, “Our diverse audience today includes (school system) superintendents, principals, administrators, teachers, school board members, teacher associations, policymakers, workforce-development board members, business and chamber leaders, parent-teacher associations, foundations and representatives of higher education; education coalitions, statewide agencies and associations.”

Blevins Speaks
Blevins participated in a discussion titled “Early Childhood Education Teaching Young Children to Soar.”

In her remarks, she said, in part, “In an ever-changing world, we (Americans) are simply not measuring up. I’ve heard many quotes concerning our educational standing with the rest of the world – 20 th, 23 rd, 24 th, 27 th, and even as high as 29 th.”

“Choose your figure. It doesn’t matter. We’re behind.”

“Bottom line, we definitely have a crisis. Our children’s future and the future of this country are in a precarious situation.”

Blevins declared, “If America is to survive as a nation and a world leader, we must do a better job of educating our youth – one child at a time. …”

She continued, “I’m a firm believer that we must prepare rather than repair. This is one of my pet phrases and also one of my pet peeves. We must prepare our children, not constantly repair their learning capabilities and education.

“How do children learn? Scientists tell us how children learn and process information for the rest of their lives depends on how we stimulate their brain in the early years, from birth to age six.”

Blevins continued, “When we stimulate the brain of the young child and the neurons fire often enough, a permanent connection is formed. The more connections, the more work the brain can do. It is called hardwiring the brain.”

Example: Tiger Woods
“It’s the greatest learning potential of a person’s life and the foundation for all future learning, a ‘window of opportunity.’”

She said, “A perfect example is Tiger Woods. Why is he so great? His dad had him on the golf course while he was still in diapers. Educators and policymakers have just begun to recognize this great ‘window of opportunity.’”

Speaking of her company, which she founded in 1998, Blevins told the meeting of prominent Texans, “With lots of help from some very special people, we have in place a proven preschool product that can deliver that is called Be Smart Kids.”

“It’s an interactive, multi-sensory, fun, computerized, one-on-one learning system that takes advantage of this ‘window of opportunity’ and wires the brain for lifelong learning.”

“It’s one-on-one because we understand how very important adult bonding is to a child’s social and emotional development.”

“This process mirrors science and wires the brain for language, vocabulary, math and logic, music, spatial/visual skills, fine motor skills, social and emotional skills, character and a second language, Spanish…”

Concluding, Blevins told those attending the statewide Education Summit in Austin, that, after working for 16 years developing early-childhood education programs, “I am very comfortable in saying, ‘Give us any child, no matter the background, for two consecutive years, 30 minutes a week, and that child will read, add and subtract by the time he/she enters kindergarten.’”

“Even children with learning challenges will dramatically improve in their learning capabilities.”

“Plus, they will develop a thirst for knowledge, strong confidence, self-esteem and a love for learning.”

“We would never think of denying food to a baby or a toddler. So, why would we deny feeding the brain? After all, it will impact the child’s learning for the rest of his/her life,” Blevins said.

 

House Resolution 384 for Be Smart Kids

By Douglas Watson
Managing Editor

View the resolution

Donna D. Blevins, the Greeneville woman who founded the Be Smart Kids Learning System, on Thursday receiving a copy of a legislative resolution commending her for “enhancing education opportunities for the children of the state, nation and the world.”

A copy of House Resolution 384 passed this spring was presented to Blevins by state Rep. Eddie Yokley, D-11th, of Greene county during a luncheon meeting of the Kiwanis Club of Greeneville. The resolution was Sponsored by Yokley and state Rep. David Hawk, R-5th, of Greeneville.

Reading from the resolution, Yokley said, “Donna Blevins believed that ‘if America’s children are going to compete in the world market, we are going to have to do a better job with education,’ and began working on her home computer in 1991 to create a unique educational program to combine proven teaching methods and computer-aided technology to stimulate the human brain (among young children) when learning capabilities are optimal.”

The resolution said that after its 1998 incorporation, Be Smart Kids, Inc., whose headquarters is in Greeneville “began licensing use of the system and training teachers for on-site learning centers at day-care facilities, preschools, Head Start programs and elementary schools.”

The Resolution continued, “The home edition of the electronic learning system was introduced in 2001. Today the Be Smart Kids Learning System is in use in homes worldwide, including the home of CNN host Larry King, enabling parents to harness the computer to develop their own children’s love for learning…”

Blevins later said that Be Smart Kids is being used to teach thousands of children in 35 Tennessee counties as well as in programs in Texas, New York, Georgia and Kentucky.Blevins thanked a number of people who have helped her over the years in developing of Be Smart Kids.