University researchers encouraged community members, social workers and parents to create and take advantage of new opportunities in regard to early childhood research in Louisiana at the Academic Distinction Fund distinguished speaker series, Wednesday.

Geoffrey Nagle, director of the Tulane University Institute of Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health, and Kirby Goidel, director of Public Policy Research Lab at the Manship School of Mass Communication, presented their research, “Early Childhood Risk and Reach in Louisiana” and spoke on “Louisiana’s Risky Business: Young Children in a Time of Budget Cuts” for the AFD.

The research is meant to be a tool for those working in early childhood education, public policy and other organizations.

Goidel, co-author of the study presented the support for early childhood funding, said, “Why doesn’t the support translate into public policy?”

“Public support for early childhood can be described as strong,” Goidel said.

Additionally, studies show that at-risk children experience issues with attention spans, thus having a significant effect on college completion by age 25, Nagle said.

Nagle spoke about the effects of stress during early childhood and said chronic stress can affect economic issues, national security and health.

Children with chronic problems such as poverty, violence, mental health and substance abuse run a risk for a higher disease because of the increased cortisol associated with stress, he said.

“Early experiences get under your skin and have a biological impact,” Nagle said.

He said chronic stress takes a toll of executive functioning or the development of planning, reasoning and problem solving,

“These are the most critical skills for children to learn,” Nagle said.

Associate professor in the School of Education Jennifer Baumgartner said the program is developing advocacy skills to fight budget cuts.

“We want our students to have the skills to build up the structure, and advocacy is a part of teaching,” Baumgartner said.

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