January 14, 2022 – Volume 21, Issue 2

HOT TOPICS

New Rapid Expert Consultation Identifies Strategies for Mitigating Pandemic Impacts on the Early Care and Education Sector

The Societal Expert Action Network (SEAN) has issued strategies state and local decision makers can use to mitigate pandemic impacts on the early care and education (ECE) sector. SEAN was created by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine to connect experts in social, behavioral, and economic sciences with policy makers to respond to COVID-19 pandemic concerns.

The publication focuses on five strategies for mitigating pandemic impacts, such as modifying subsidy reimbursement and payment policies and integrating data systems across provider and funding types. The authors included examples of each of the strategies, which they state lay the foundation for solutions to long-standing challenges within ECE.

An interactive web summary outlining the key strategies and the publication, written by Erdal Tekin, Jacqueline Jones, and Sharon L. Kagan, can be accessed here.

Research Emphasizes the Effectiveness of Establishing a Healthy Lifestyle in Early Childhood to Prevent Metabolic Disorders  

It’s January, and many people are striving to stick to wellness resolutions. Developing healthy habits is beneficial at any age, but is especially important in the early years, as made clear in a recent chapter of Healthy Lifestyle. Developing healthy behaviors in early childhood can protect individuals from developing metabolic syndrome as they age, the authors wrote.

“The process of metabolic syndrome begins in childhood and tracks for decades, leading to hypertension, cardiovascular events, diabetes mellitus, chronic kidney disease, stroke and sudden death during adulthood,” they explained.

Exposure to a mother’s healthy diet in pregnancy, followed by healthy behaviors in childhood such as reduced salt intake, avoidance of tobacco use, regular physical exercise, and a diet rich in vegetables and fruit and low in animal fats “can prevent or retard the progression of metabolic syndrome later in life.” Read the abstract here.

New Policy Brief Highlights why States Should Consider Removing Child Support Enforcement Requirements from State Child Care Subsidy Programs

States should not require families to cooperate with child support enforcement in order to be eligible for child care subsidies, the nonprofit Zero to Three argued.

“Child support compliance in return for access to child care subsidy support ultimately acts as a barrier to child care access and negatively impacts family economic security and job growth in a post-COVID economy,” the advocacy organization wrote.

The policy requirement burdens families and can result in discouragement from accessing child care resources. Recognizing the drawbacks, most states do not make it part of the subsidy process, the nonprofit noted.

Zero to Three recommended that states offer education about child support enforcement. They urged a clarification by the federal government that requiring families to cooperate with child support enforcement is not recommended or required for state child care assistance policies. Access the brief here.

ECE RESEARCH

Preschool Sleep and Depression Interact to Predict Gray Matter Volume Trajectories across Late Childhood to Adolescence

Researchers used brain imaging to track changes in gray matter in 158 young children as they aged through adolescence to assess the impact of sleep disturbances and depression across childhood.

Participants were drawn from a preschool depression study. While sleep problems alone did not predict gray matter volume, “preschool sleep and depression symptoms interacted to predict later total gray matter volume and the trajectory of decline in total gray matter volume,” they determined.

“Sleep disturbances in the form of longer sleep onset latencies, increased irregularity in the child’s sleep schedule, and higher levels of daytime sleepiness in early childhood were all found to interact with early childhood depression severity to predict later trajectories of cortical gray matter volume,” wrote Caroline Hoyniak, Diana J. Whalen, Rebecca Tillman, Joan L. Luby, and Deanna M. Barch of Washington University in Missouri. Read the study here.

Hot Executive Functions Assessment Instruments in Preschool Children: A Systematic Review

Gratification delay, decision making and emotional self-regulation were found to be the most studied “hot executive functions (EFs)”— EFs that include social-emotional components — in preschoolers, in a new systematic review.

The study also identified 17 instruments used to assess hot EFs. The Delayed Gratification Task, Child’s Play Task, and Delayed Reward Task were among the most frequently used.

Though the “accuracy and conceptual clarity between the assessment of cognitive and emotional components in EFs is still debatable,” the researchers concluded that “the study of EFs integrated in their hot and cold aspects, can report a panorama of greater comprehensiveness in the cognitive-affective functioning of preschool children.”

The study was written by Vannia Mehsen, Lilian Morag, Sergio Chesta, Kristol Cleaton and Héctor Burgos of Universidad Mayor in Chile. Read it here.

Understanding the Secondary System of Therapeutic Alliance in Autism Interventions from the Perspectives of Parents and Caregivers

Alliance-building between parents, caregivers and therapists may be a key component for successfully treating children with autism, a study found.

“Tapping into the personal experiences of parents and caregivers can help in identifying what they value in a working, therapeutic relationship,” wrote researcher John Robert C. Rilveria of the University of the Philippines. “Communication, skills training, and feedback among therapists, parents, and caregivers are essential to enhance positive attitude toward treatment, promote compliance to treatment recommendations, and address sources of personal stress.” Read the study here.

The Use of Internet of Things Devices in Early Childhood Education: A Systematic Review

Researchers found in a systematic review that the use of Internet of Things (IoT) devices in early childhood education was not associated with negative impacts for children; however, high prices and data security were two concerns that affected IoT device adoption by parents and educators.

IoT devices in this study refer to physical devices belonging to the IoT paradigm, such as an app-connected toy or smart watch. In their review, the authors found IoT devices are mainly used as IoT playthings and IoT teaching aids in ECE settings.

The review reported IoT devices in ECE settings provided opportunities for children “to connect digital and physical worlds for their playful explorations, help them to build their knowledge base, arouse their interest and enthusiasm, and encourage them to be autonomous learners.”

The study by Li Ling, Nicola Yelland, and Maria Hatzigianni of the University of Melbourne and Camille Dickson-Deane of the University of Technology Sydney has an abstract here.

Game Learning Analytics Can Unpack Escribo Play Effects in Preschool Early Reading and Writing

Researchers in Brazil clustered the results of preschoolers’ performance on a game-based reading and writing intervention to better measure its effectiveness.

The study used data automatically collected by the learning game Escribo Play to identify four student clusters. That allowed them to determine how effective the intervention was for each cluster. The study involved 749 4-year-olds in Brazil.

“Learning analytics can be a cost-effective and unharmful alternative to process data to assess the effectiveness of game-based educational interventions for early childhood education,” wrote Gabriel Candidoda Silva, Rodrigo L. Rodrigues, and Americo N. Amorim of Universidade Federal Rural de Pernambuco, and Rafael F. Melloa and José R. Oliveira of Escribo Inovação para o Aprendizado. Read the study here.

OPPORTUNITIES

Manager of State Policy, National Head Start Association

Research Assistant, Urban Institute

Research Analyst, Urban Institute

Senior Research Associate, Georgia Policy Labs, Georgia State University

Policy Resource Data Manager, Prenatal-to-3 Policy Impact Center

Research and Evaluation Data Manager, Prenatal-to-3 Policy Impact Center

SRCD State Policy Post-Doctoral Fellowship

Program Assistant, Early Educator Investment Collaborative