What About The Children?'s conference held Thursday, 13th March 2014, entitled "Building the Brain - what's love got to do with it", examined how the first three years of life shape a child's emotional, physical and mental health. The speakers, representing a broad spectrum of professional expertise, outlined from their particular perspective the range of factors, experiences and relationships important for infant brain development, including physical interaction and social engagement with consistent, responsive, loving carers.
Heather Geddes, Educational Psychotherapist working with the Caspari Foundation, reminded the audience that "early experiences affect us all" and "we only know ourselves because someone has known us first".
Enuice Lumsden, Head of Early Years at the University of Northampton, stressed the importance for professionals to understand that "every interaction (they have with a child and the family) counts".
June O'Sullivan CEO of the London Early Years Foundation said that "Children's wellbeing starts with positive attachment to adults who are attuned and responsive. If they understand the children's emotions and put their fears into words, it is very reassuring to the child."
Dorothy Marlen, a freelance Early Childhood Consultant spoke about the importance of "respectful care", and the need to slow things down with young children.
Sheila Perkins, an experienced nursery teacher explained the vital importance of a carefully planned and managed induction period that is flexible and responsive to the needs of individual children as they start nursery from the age of 2+.
Sally Goddard Blythe, Director of the Institute for Neuro Physiological Psychology discussed the importance of physical development. "Attention, balance and co-ordination skills learned during the first 36 months of life support cognitive learning and have been linked to performance on SATs at school. Infants need opportunity for free movement and exploration whether that is tummy time, cuddling or rough play."
Maggie Fisher, Health Visitor Parent Support Net mums described the key role of Health Visitors in supporting children and working in partnership with families.
A full report on the conference, presentations and papers will be available in due course from the web site.