Largest Early Childhood Conference in SD!!

The SDAEYC/SDHSA Conferece is fast approaching.  With amazing keynote speakers, workshop presenters, exhibitors and more planned for this year’s conference, it is a can’t miss event!  Check out our conference program and visit our website to register. 

2011 SDAEYC/SDHSA Conference Program


Workshop two – Parent Advocacy

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”
                                                                                                –  Alice Walker –

This is how Holly Major, support specialist for Pathfinder Parent Center began her workshop on parent advocacy at the Region VIII conference in Fargo, ND.  She had further expanded on a recent post regarding this topic, so I found it helpful to parents and families wanting to become more involved in their child’s lives.

Experiences are valuable and will go by very quickly.  A parent will always be a childs first and most important teacher and parenting is the most important job that every parent takes on.  Here are some tips to becoming an affective advocate for your child:

1 –  Understand your childs needs/abilities

  • Know the services appropriate for your child
  • Have high expectations for your child and the service they receive
  • Find the right accommodations
  • Use resources to learn more!

2 –  Know the Key Players

  • Find out who the decision makers are
  • How can you find their names?
  • What type of organization are you working with?

3 –  Know your rights/responsibilities

  • Read websites
  • Ask how service is funded
  • Ask to see laws
  • Ask questions – It’s likely others have the same question
  • Join a group

4 –  Be well organized

  • Keep records
  • Put everything in writing – email, letter, text, etc.
  • Keep a phone log
  • Have a meeting, keep accurate notes

5 –  Use Clear/Effective Communication

  • Keep your eyes on the prize! – Find the right services for your child
  • Listen and ask questions – What is right?
  • Turn negatives into positives
  • Speak clearly, don’t make people feel defensive
  • Much of communication is non-verbal, remember that when meeting face-to-face
  • Show respect, be thankful, manage your emotions
  • Apologize if necessary
  • Separate the person from the problem
  • Remember that not everyone has all the answers
  • Check your facts
  • Choose your battles

6 –  Know how to resolve disagreements

  • Talk to the right people first
  • Follow the formal processes for solving the problem
  • Remember, being fair is not about treating everyone equally, but about giving everyone what they need. 


Baby Brains: Importance of Early Attachment

The first workshop I had attended at the Region VIII conference was led by Sandi Christofferson and focused primarily on the brain research that is having such an impact on the social and emotional aspects of infant development. She provides us with some ways to positively encourage  the infant’s early attachment experiences that are the building blocks for the mental health and wellness of the child.
Sandi began her workshop by mentioning that it is never to late to have a happy child. It’s important to be aware of the process of attachment, what happens when things go right, when things go wrong (effects of early trauma) and the positive models of care for young children.

What people need to know

 • Brain Stem is apparent from very beginning ( 3 weeks) and is the first part of the brain to function
• Early childhood experience help make the connections between the stem and the other parts of the brain
• At birth, the brain has 100 billion neuron (potential for connections)
• At 2 years old, there are 1,000 trillion connections
• The brain gets heavier as cells connect and has great potential to develop as the baby grows
                 o The weight of the brain increases more in the first 27 months of life than it ever will.
                 o The brain is more malleable in the first 3 years than any other time during  its development. The experiences provided by Head Start are very important at this state of the development process.

What regulates the brain is the Quality and Quantity of relationship. This means balance between social, emotional and mental experiences. Attunement of the caregiver or parent is so important. They must have the ability to read and interpret cues/signs given by the child and respond to them in a timely manner. This allows trust to develop between the child and the caregiver. Some parents may not be experienced in recognizing these sometimes subtle cues and will need the caregiver to provide some assistance in recognition of these subtle cues.

Emotional Development
Edward Tronick, director of the Child Development Unit at Harvard University, studied interplay between infants inner world and outside world. He found that young children develop emotions before they begin learning, so managing their emotions becomes necessary. Infants are less able to learn if they are not able to control their emotions. Properly regulating a child’s emotions requires dedicated/informed individuals.

Some things that may interrupt attachment:
• Trauma of the infant brain
• Environmental safety
• Medical/birth defects
• Parental and/or caregiver mental health (depression, anxiety, etc.)
• Family support
• Loss of caregiver
One of the most interesting experiments relating to this process was done by Dr. Tronick. The still faced experiment shows a mother interacting with her child, and shows what happens when she “interrupts” interaction. Take a look.

Mrs. Christofferson continued on the topic of infant trauma.  Any, or all, of the following may be considered trauma:

  • Interruption in care-giving of some kind
  • Loud noises (yelling, throwing things, crying, etc)
  • Being unattended for a long period of time to cry
  • medical procedures
  • physical or sexual abuse

Some myths about infants related to trauma include:

  • They’re too young to understand
  • They don’t take it in
  • They don’t feel
  • They won’t remember

We are emotional creatures that think!  All experiences must pass through the brain stem and up through the various parts of the brain.  There are ways we can enhance this experience for our children, models of care we may all participate in.  They include:

  • Enhancing the attachment experience (modeling for parents as early learning specialists)
  • Holding and containing
  • Being a secure and predictable base for both parents and infants
  • Watch, Wait, Wonder – a form of child/infant and parent interaction
  • Attending to adult mental health (yours and the parents)

Thanks to Sandi Christofferson for the educational workshop.  Here are some links she provided that may be of some use:

It’s an ECE Stampeeeed!!

Usually when you visit Fargo, ND, the only stampede you’ll have to worry about is that of the NDSU Bison.  From Oct 13-15, however,  600+ Head Start parents, staff and administrators converged upon the city to learn, network and grow at the Region VIII Head Start Conference. 

Day one was filled with encouragement, music and education.  North Dakota’s entire congressional delegation joined the group for the opening presentation.  Senators Byron Dorgan and Kent Conrad and Representative Earl Pomeroy took time out of their busy schedules to support the work of Region VIII, more specifically, North Dakota’s Head Start programs.  It was a very impressive sight to see.  Here is a little bit from Senator Dorgan.  I apologize for the poor quality.

Jana Stanfield

After a short break, we were entertained by the music and message of Jana Stanfield.  Jana is an award-winning recording artist, speaker, humorist and songwriter.  He music has been described as “Heavy MeNtal” or “psychotherapy you can dance to.”  She had the audience dancing, singing and smiling for much of her presentation, but she also shared many positive messages with us.  My favorite went along with her song, “I’m not lost, I’m exploring.”  If we see ourselves as explorers we won’t be expected to have all the answers.  Her recommendations:

  • Be open to learning new things. 
  • Let yourself have a beginners mind
  • Turn grief into growth

“We cannot do all the good the world needs, but the world needs all the good we can do.”
                                                                                                                    – Jana Stanfield –

Day 1 workshop information soon to come!!


Sustainability takes more than just money

I watched a video recently from the Community Driven Institute regarding sustainability.  It made me think of Head Start and the services we provide to families with children pre-natal to age five.  I believe the presenter said it best when she mentioned that sustainability takes much more than just money.   She discusses the need for a strong foundation, individual support and, eventually, monetary support.  Head Start providers are a great example of this phenomenon. 

Head Start families are all capable of becoming sustainable and breaking the cycle of poverty.  The almighty dollar is viewed as a key variable in the breaking poverty equation.  Many families (young and old) are unaware that, even with money, lacking a foundation and strong support group makes the road to sustainability very rugged.  Head Start programs provide the support these families need to take a step toward sustainability.  Head Start services help build the foundation for these families, teaching them fundamental concepts needed to live comfortably in today’s society.  They provide the parents with knowledge that they can then pass to their children when they are at an age of understanding and rational.  Without Head Start services, many families would not have the support or fundamental knowledge necessary to take that next step toward sustainability.

“When we change the way we see things, things change.”  Take a look at the video and let me know what you think.

Importance of Activity Based Learning

story recently released in the New York Times features a study published by University of Illinois researchers confirming that active children may, in fact, be smarter than inactive children.  This is great news for Head Start and a large reason for its success over the year. 

As early childhood educators, parents or education professionals, we are all aware of the benefits activity based learning can have on a young child.  If you are unaware of the benefits, this study may help shed some light on the situation.  In Head Start, activity based learning and providing valuable early childhood experiences is an essential part of the social, emotional, mental and physical development of our young children.  This study further emphasises the importance that play and activity based learning can have on our young children. 

While the study focused on 9 and 10-year-old children, it is difficult to imagine these findings not relating to younger, or even older children in similar situations.  The main point of the New York Times article?  GET KIDS MOVING!!  They showed active children, with similar backgrounds, will have high IQ’s and will perform better on tests than their inactive counterparts.  This evidence further emphasises the need for early childhood education and the role it plays in the development of the future leaders of our country.  I hope Washington D.C. and the leaders therein are listening.

A new beginning for SDHSA

Hello everyone!  As I was watching a great video yesterday about education and how it may be hindering the creativity of our young children, I had the sudden urge to blog about it!  While that blog post will be coming soon, I want to provide a brief introduction to our new pressence online. 

We have recently developed a new website at  Our CMS system allows us to manage the content and look of our website and is very user friendly.  The blog, however, is a different story.  We feel that WordPress will be a very simple way to provide everyone interested in early childhood education with valuable information.  Please continue to check back or sign up for our updates.  Please also let us know if there is anything you would like to see posted.  Thanks for visiting!

South Dakota Head Start Team