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WIAAP Board Member cited in recent Milwaukee Business Journal article

Wednesday, July 6, 2016   (0 Comments)
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WIAAP Board Member, Dr. Dipesh Navsaria, was recently cited in a Milwaukee Business Journal article, read his excerpt below.

Building brains: UW researchers say early steps to improve children’s lives will help them succeed in school and life

Author: ABIGAIL BECKER | The Capital Times | abecker@madison.com | @abecker_4

Parent, child brains linked

Not only are children’s brains more malleable in early childhood, the brains of new parents are also subject to change, according to a March study from the Aspen Institute, an education and policy studies nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C.

New mothers and fathers experienced structural changes during the first few months after their children’s birth, according to the report, as their newborns’ brains are also developing — emphasizing a need for a two-generation approach to early intervention.

Dr. Dipesh Navsaria, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is also the medical director of the Wisconsin branch of the national Reach Out and Read program.

“True two-generation interventions don’t say … the parent is just a route to making the child’s life better,” said Dipesh Navsaria, a UW-Madison associate professor of pediatrics, who was not involved in the study. “The parent and the child both have inherent value, and we should be investing in them both because … that’s where we get an added effect.”

Pollak explained that human brains develop structurally in an inside-out pattern. The frontal lobe behind the forehead controls behavior and attention — skills children need in school — and it develops later.

“Because those parts of the brain are very late developing, they might be very vulnerable … because they’re growing a lot while children are encountering or not encountering things in the world,” Pollak said.

Children’s brains are in a constant state of growth, or plasticity, and they can tolerate a number of adverse experiences before long-term effects are seen, Pollak said. That resiliency means some effects can be reversed.

“It’s just a question of what’s the cost of waiting longer and longer before we do something,” Pollak said.

As Navsaria explained, it is more difficult to address a speech delay in an 8-year-old than a 3 -year-old, and in a 3-year-old than an 18-month-old.

“The upshot of this is that you have this fantastic opportunity in the first five years of life to wire things right, or if they’re not wired right, to do remediation,” Navsaria said. “If we get it right early on, then we have a better likelihood of a good outcome.”

Reading gateway to learning

Navsaria is also the medical director of the Wisconsin branch of the national Reach Out and Read program, which was analyzed as part of the Aspen Institute report. There are about 160 Reach Out and Read programs and 50 clinics in training in Wisconsin.

The program distributes one book per well-child visit from ages six months to 5 years, for a total of 10 visits. The program costs about $20 per child, said Brian Gallagher, executive director of the national organization based in Boston. Clinics pay for the program through fundraisers, grants or by including it in their budget.

Dr. Dipesh Navsaria is seen in 2011 at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health’s free student-run clinic at the Salvation Army Family and Women's Shelter in Madison. Here, Navsaria, an associate professor of pediatrics, puts the Reach Out and Read early literacy program in action. Navsaria is the medical director for Reach Out and Read in Wisconsin.

Francesca Vash, a nurse practitioner at Group Health Cooperative’s Capitol Clinic in Madison, said her patient population includes families who are transient or homeless with little access to books.

“No matter the age of the child, I always talk about the importance of reading,” Vash said.

By intervening through the health care system, Navsaria said, medical professionals can keep track of children’s development and model reading techniques to parents in a consistent manner.

“I think it changes how people think about (achievement gaps) — that it could be any one of us and it isn’t a moral failing, this isn’t some sort of irresponsibility, this is the effects of children’s brains being under siege,” Navsaria said.

Read the full article here. 

Cap Times reporter Abigail Becker wrote this story while working as an intern at the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. Wisconsin Public Radio reporter Bridgit Bowden and Center Managing Editor Dee J. Hall contributed to this report. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates.