American Indian, Alaska Native infants possess healthy developmental skills

Report finds similar learning potential despite poverty, other barriers

A study released by the U.S. Department of Education on Aug. 11 found that American Indian and Alaska Native infants do not differ significantly from their peers in early developmental skills.

The report, American Indian and Alaska Native Children: Findings From the Base Year of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort (ECLS-B), found that native children at 9 months of age are similar to the general population in the performance of early mental and physical skills, including exploring objects in play, eye-hand coordination, pre-walking skills and "babbling" (the first stages of talking).

The children performed as well as their peers despite increased risks of poverty and inadequate prenatal care. One-third of American Indian and Alaska Native children aged 9 months live in poverty, one-fourth live in households with no father present, and more than one in 10 were born to teenaged mothers, the study found.

The groundbreaking Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort (ECLS-B), is an ongoing survey following more than 10,000 children born in the United States in 2001. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), located in the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences, is conducting the nationally representative study, which is sponsored in part by the Department's Office of Indian Education.

Among American Indian and Alaska Native children aged approximately 9 months, the study found:

¥ 87 percent were exploring objects with a purpose (compared to 88 percent in the general population);

¥ 75 percent were showing the first signs of walking (compared to 73 percent); ad

¥ 46 percent were healthily "babbling" (compared to 47 percent).

"These infant children have kept up with others developmentally despite hardships," said Russ Whitehurst, director of the Institute of Education Sciences. "The challenge for the preschools and schools that will serve these children when they are older is to maintain their level of progress. Poverty should not be an excuse for letting these children fall behind."

To download, view and print the report as a pdf file, please visit: http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2005116

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