Report: Special Training, Support Can Be Key To Infants’ Mental Health

Tens of thousands of Connecticut infants and toddlers are at risk for social and emotional problems, and the professionals who interact with them most need mental health training in order to help them, according to a report released this week. Children who live in poverty, are homeless or have suffered abuse or neglect are among those most likely to experience trauma at a young age, according to the report by the Child Health and Development Institute (CHDI) of Connecticut, and the key to helping them is providing the right support. “There is a tremendous opportunity to improve children’s lives by promoting a child’s secure attachment with a caregiver from the beginning,” said Judith Meyers, a psychologist and president and CEO of CHDI. “Professionals who care for young children are in the unique position to help families develop nurturing relationships.”

The nonprofit institute suggests that all doctors, teachers, early care providers and others who work with infants and toddlers in Connecticut be trained in infant mental health. Helping children process and cope with trauma early is essential to their future success, said Melissa Mendez, co-lead author of the report and associate director of early childhood at the Wheeler Clinic in Plainville.

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As Gap Widens, A Push For Learning For Under-Threes

When Connecticut’s new kindergarten class starts school in a few weeks, as many as a third of the children from the state’s poorest communities will be walking into their first classroom ever. Among their peers from the state’s richest areas, 97 percent will have attended preschool. It’s a persistent gap that can affect a child’s success through school and beyond, and it widened from 2011 to 2012, according to Connecticut Voices for Children.  The percentage of kindergartners in poor communities who had attended preschool fell from 69.5 percent in the 2010-11 school year to 65.9 percent in 2011-12.  For children in wealthy communities the percentage rose from 94.9 percent to 97.4 percent. And while the importance of kindergarten readiness is well known, child advocates are now pressing policymakers to recognize that the need for quality learning begins long before a child even reaches preschool age.

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