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From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development
resilient aspects include the extent of the child's vocabulary, language proficiency (i.e., uses of language), understanding of number concepts, familiarity with letter-sound associations, and executive functioning. Importantly, these are precisely the aspects of early communication and learning that distinguish children at school entry and are thus strong candidates for the aspects of early school performance that become consolidated over time, accounting for linkages between preschool capabilities and educational outcomes in adolescence and beyond. Early interventions can attenuate these individual differences at school entry, although the subsequent school environment plays a crucial role in either sustaining or undermining early gains. Children with specific disabilities (as contrasted with transitory developmental delays) can also benefit to varying degrees from specially designed interventions, although the early initiation of these efforts may be especially important (as has been demonstrated by research on deaf children) and the extent to which normal functioning can be approached remains unclear (as illustrated by children with specific language impairments).
Despite the substantial interest that research on the developing brain has stimulated in finding materials that can accelerate early talking and learning, there is no evidence that any specialized kind of short-term input improves intelligence or learning in an appreciable way. Put in crude terms, there is no magic bullet to boost intelligence. Likewise, there is no scientific evidence that any sort of mobile, toy, computer program, or baby class has a long-term impact on reasoning, intelligence, or learning. Rather, under typical circumstances, parents around the globe seem intuitively to talk to children in ways that work quite well in fostering language development and to provide children with the interactions and materials that promote early learning. To the extent that problems arise, it is usually not that parents are doing terribly wrong things, but that they are not doing quite the right things or enough of them. This includes talking to children more and using more elaborate talk, taking advantage of everyday interactions to introduce number concepts, and not only spending more time reading but also exploring the words and pictures in the book.