The scientific evidence regarding the long-term impact of early years experiences has been available for some time. The challenge lies in ensuring that this evidence is central to shaping early years policy, practice and funding decisions. In this seminar, Dr Suzanne Zeedyk will argue that while this observation was true before COVID, it is even more imperative now. Young children’s experiences during COVID lockdown will have shaped their biological development. This altered impact will have occurred not just for a proportion of children, but across the cohort of Scottish children between the ages of birth and 5. The evidence of delayed speech and language development, as well as poorer social skills, is already pouring in. Many children will have found themselves living with highly stressed parents, and perhaps in households where domestic violence escalated. As a sector, we need to think hard about the consequences of these experiences - for the sake of the children, the staff, and for society more widely. We need to ensure that all members of the early years sector are robustly knowledgeable about the processes of brain development, attachment, trauma and self-regulation. Confidence in this knowledge is crucial if we are to provide children with the experiences they require to recover from this unprecedented time, and if we are to fulfil the expectations of GIRFEC and the UNCRC, which now frame Scotland’s orientation to children’s needs.
Dr Suzanne Zeedyk is a research scientist fascinated by babies’ inborn capacity to communicate. Since 1993, she has been based at the University of Dundee, within the School of Psychology. In 2011, she set up her own independent training enterprise to disseminate more widely the science of the early years. She now spends much of her time speaking to the public about our human need for emotional and physiological connection. She is able to bring to this her research expertise on topics including parent-infant relationships, family support, communicative disorders, and the socio-political contexts that frame our responses to scientific information. She works closely with organisations throughout the world to increase awareness of the decisions we take about caring for children, illuminating the way in which those decisions are integrally connected to our vision for the kind of society we wish to build.