As a pediatric cochlear implant surgeon, Dr. Dana Suskind knew the electronic medical device could be a game changer for her young patients. Research has shown that children’s language exposure in the first three years of life impacts their ability to learn. Dr. Suskind, Professor of Surgery and Pediatrics at the University of Chicago and director of the Pediatric Cochlear Implantation Program, saw that after implanting cochlear implants, some children’s speech was on par with their typically developing peers. But other children did not fare as well. And the difference usually fell along socioeconomic lines.
These observations led Dr. Suskind to found the Thirty Million Words® Initiative, an organization that helps parents enrich the early language environments of their children in order to optimize brain development and ability to learn. Through the organization’s outreach program, parents and other caregivers learn the science behind the vital role they play in a child’s brain development. The program establishes long-term relationships with parents in collaboration with pediatricians, early childhood educators and community partners.
In celebration of Women’s History Month, Dr. Suskind spoke to PNC employees, clients and community leaders around the country about the Thirty Million Words® Initiative. She also discussed unconventional career paths such as hers in a conversation with Jenn LaClair, head of PNC Business Banking.
“PNC has made such a huge impact,” Dr. Suskind said, thanking the PNC Foundation for its support of the Thirty Million Words Initiative.
We are reimagining the early childhood space in order to close the gap between affluent children and their less-affluent peers. Parents and caregivers are the key architects in shaping young children’s brains.
The PNC Foundation supports programs like the Thirty Million Words Initiative that enhance educational opportunities for children.
“Learning doesn’t start on the first day of school. It starts on the first day of life,” she said. “Language is food for the developing brain. In the first three years of life, 80 to 85 percent of the brain is developed, impacting children’s cognitive functioning including language, memory, emotions and behavior.”
See how organizations in Atlanta are working to bridge the vocabulary gap »
Dr. Suskind encourages parents to think of their baby’s brain as a piggy bank. Every word parents say is like a coin in that bank. Parents can help “fill the bank” by using three tactics:
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