Partner Showcase No. 5 - Melissa Clearfield. --
Just as healthy crops require healthy seeds to be selected from healthy plants, and planted in healthy soil to be nurtured with water and sunlight, healthy people require healthy parents who can supply them with the essential requirements to thrive. A man who attempts farming and grows crops in poor soil, without water or sunlight will be a man who fails at farming. A parent who attempts to raise a child without first understanding the essentials of parenting will be ill equipped to produce healthy children. Fortunately for humanity, recent research is showing us how we can improve the physical, mental and emotional health of our children.
Melissa Clearfield is a professor of psychology at Whitman College specializing in infant development. Melissa took an interest in the effects of poverty on early childhood development after getting involved in the local CRI ACE movement. Melissa was part of the team who brought Dr. John Medina (neuroscientist and author of Brain Rules) to Walla Walla for the 7th biennial Children’s Forum event in 2011 and then recruited a team of undergraduates to study the effects of poverty on infants in the first year of life. Melissa reports “So far we have found that there are delays and deficits in everything we have looked for by 6 months of age. We have seen delays in attention, problem solving, increased stress levels even in infants as young as 6 months”.
Melissa and her team have partnered with Early Head Start to intervene with parents and infants of 6 to 10 months of age in efforts to curtail adverse experiences during this critical stage of brain development. She is now engaged in the Washington Innovation Cluster of the Frontiers of Innovation, in partnership with Children’s Home Society (see http://developingchild.harvard.../washington-cluster/). The knowledge Melissa learned about ACEs and resilience has changed the format of how she teaches her undergraduates. Undergraduates are now exposed to the language of ACEs and resilience. As these students work with the next generation of educators they are familiar with these concepts and they will bring that into their work.
Thank you Melissa for your valuable contribution in changing the way our youth see our world.