All kids deserve kind, safe, welcoming places to grow.

Dr. Megan Gunnar discusses how a child’s early experiences affect the foundation for development

Washburn Center for Children hosted its second speaker in the Thought Leadership Speaker Series: Let’s Talk on Tuesday, January 23 with Dr. Megan Gunnar, Director of the Institute of Child Development from the University of Minnesota.

More than 100 community and staff members participated in Dr. Gunnar’s seminar “Adverse Experiences and Brain Development: Vulnerability and Resiliency.”

Dr. Gunnar expressed how critical a child’s early experiences are to the architecture of the brain and its development. She noted how an individual’s experiences shape their brain architecture and impact areas including sensory pathways, language and higher cognitive functions.  Dr. Gunnar reiterated the importance of early foundational support as this affects all that follows.

She explained the brain develops in the context of relationships further acknowledging the importance of nurturing healthy, positive relationships in a young person’s life. Dr. Gunnar highlighted the “Serve and Return” model where the brain establishes secure relationships based on its experiences and creates protection from stress. Toxic stress can impact an anxious brain that first reacts to situations and then thinks about the outcome.

Throughout the seminar, Dr. Gunnar emphasized the importance of a strong foundation in a young person’s life. She explained the foundation of a successful society is built in the early years of childhood, as evidenced by achievement in education, lifelong health, responsible citizenship and economic productivity. These factors assist in the next generation’s positive parenting and establishing vibrant, resilient communities.

Washburn Center is grateful to our inaugural sponsors, Agency Squid and Lesley and Stewart Crosby, for their commitment to children’s mental health.

The next Thought Leadership Series will be held during National Mental Health Month on Thursday, May 3 at 6:30 p.m. with Dr. Bill Allen on “Family: how and where relationships are learned…”

Learn more about the 2018 Thought Leadership Speaker Series: Let’s Talk