April 25, 2002
Vol. 21 No. 14

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    Center for Early Childhood Research sets conference on developmental disabilities

    By Josh Schonwald
    News Office

    The development of young children with special needs and disabilities will be the focus of a Friday, May 3 conference to be sponsored by the University’s Center for Early Childhood Research.

    The conference, titled “Developmental Pathways in Young Children with Special Needs,” will be held at the Gleacher Center from 9 a.m. to noon and will bring together some of the country’s leading brain researchers, developmental psychologists and pediatricians.

    “Research on children with developmental disabilities informs our understanding of the mutual influences of biology and environment on development,” said Susan Levine, Professor in Psychology and a conference organizer. “By examining the different development trajectories of children with disabilities, we can explore the plasticity of the human nervous system.”

    Two of the country’s pioneers in early childhood development will present lectures at the conference.

    Heidi Feldman, a professor of child development and pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, will present studies of the development of children who sustained brain injuries early in their lives, both before beginning language learning and during school-age language education.

    Her lecture, “Early Brain Injury and Language Learning,” will show that children with early brain injuries typically show delays in the early phases of language development, but their language development improves during preschool years.

    “Her research demonstrates the extent and limits of plasticity of the human nervous system,” Levine said.

    The second lecture, “Children with Disabilities in Early Intervention,” will focus on the research of Jack Shonkoff, Dean of the Heller School for Social Policy at Brandeis University. Drawing on data collected over a 10-year period, and over five time points between infancy and age 10, Shonkoff will present an analysis of how a child’s development and parents’ well-being evolve and interact over time.

    Shonkoff’s lecture will prompt discussion on a key issue, Levine said. “He will identify predictors and moderators of development of children with special needs and the kinds of family adaptations that promote favorable outcomes.”

    The McCormick Tribune Foundation funds the Center for Early Childhood Research, a multidisciplinary effort to study the needs of young children.

    The conference registration cost is $40. For more information and registration materials, call (773) 834-7573 or visit the conference Web site at: www.cecr.uchicago.edu.