Get Adobe Flash player
COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL Toxic Stress New science exploration has shown that children who are in neglectful, abusive, or harmful environ- ments (children who do not have secure attach- ments to their caregivers) exhibit toxic stress. Toxic stress is when the body senses a threat and remains at a high level of vigilance for prolonged periods to protect itself. This high level of vigilance means the child’s brain floods with chemicals, his heart rate speeds up, and his muscles grow tense; all the systems of the young child’s body stay activated and on alert for weeks and months. Toxic stress affects brain development, the wiring of the brain, immunity, and the ability to learn, as well as the emotional and social well-being of the child. Chil- dren need to feel safe to grow up healthy in both body and mind. Quality adult-child interactions in a quality child care environment can help ame- liorate stress and meet the social and emotional needs of children. A caring, nurturing adult can help relieve out-of-control bodily reactions. Adults can help children deal with adversity and become resilient. Early care and education personnel have the advantage of their relationships with families. You can direct families to resources such as screen- ings, assessments, and protective services. Early intervention with professionals can protect chil- dren from the stresses in their lives (AAP 2011a). The scientific exploration of the brain is dynamic and ongoing as new instruments are developed to watch the brain as it functions and learns. The best way to keep current about new brain research is to belong to a professional early childhood asso- ciation. Such associations keep members informed through bulletins, research journals, position state- ments, and online resources. Furthermore, the Internet provides reviews of current findings in articles and scientific journals, and television pro- grams often focus on new findings and suggest books and programs or videos. Caution, however, has to be exercised. Many people who don’t under- stand how infants, toddlers, and young children learn give advice on how to apply the research. Products that are purportedly based on current brain theory pop up in the market, but some of these products can be harmful. Stay informed. Talk to coworkers and colleagues and share information. Attend local, state, and national conferences and workshops geared toward parents and teachers of young children. These resources can give you practical tips and help you learn how to revise your curriculum and try new ideas. Also, use com- mon sense about what is good for young children. Teaching now includes a better understanding of how children learn, but what we have known for years about best practices and how adults should relate to young children is still valid. Check out the information thoroughly before drastically changing your practice. Once you are sure of the advantages, try the new technique and decide if it makes a dif- ference for the children in your care. Developmentally Appropriate Practice It is important for early care providers to ensure that everything is appropriate to the child’s age COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL introduction  3