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Dr. Donna Grigsby

Dr. Donna Grigsby on early childhood brain development and literacy in young children.
Season 13 Episode 28 Length 28:03 Premiere: 05/11/18

Early Childhood Brain Development

Government agencies, schools, and business groups are devoting extensive resources to prepare Kentucky’s students to enter the workforce of today and the future.

But one Lexington physician thinks that waiting until students are in high school or college is missing a huge opportunity.

“I would argue workforce development begins in utero,” says Dr. Donna Grigsby, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Kentucky. “We really should be thinking about how to make our children as successful as possible by the time they get to school, so that our workforce, when they become adults, is going to be even stronger.”

Grigsby appeared on KET’s Connections to discuss why a child’s earliest experiences are crucial to a healthy and productive adulthood, and what parents can do to promote good brain development in their babies.
 

 
The Importance of Stimulating Environments
From conception through the first three years of life, the human brain develops in dramatic ways, according to Grigsby. It’s absorbing information from all five senses and building neuropathways that are crucial to cognitive function.

But that doesn’t just happen on its own. Grigsby says a key ingredient for healthy brain development is engagement with the child. That means talking, reading, singing, and playing with children to create a stimulating environment for their young brains. Grigsby contends that these kinds of interactions should be considered part of an infant’s basic care, along with feeding and diapering.

“Talk to [your baby] about everything you’re doing,” she says. “Every time you talk to a child and you respond to their attempts to communicate, that just reinforces those language pathways in the brain.”

Children raised in families who talk with them more tend to develop a larger vocabulary and higher IQ, says Grigsby. In fact, research indicates that kids in talkative, engaging environments may be exposed to 30 million more words than children who don’t have positive adult interactions.

In addition to the cognitive benefits, those exchanges are also critical to emotional development.

“It’s so important for children to have that loving, nurturing relationship with their primary caregivers,” Grisby says. “That sets the basis for every trusting relationship in their life.”

Childhood Experiences Lead to Adult Behaviors
What if children don’t experience a positive, stimulating environment? Grigsby says they may have difficulty expressing their emotions in verbal ways, and they may find it hard to discern emotions in other people. She also says differences in language development can show up as early as 9 months of age.

And that can have a range of life-long impacts. Grigsby says those children may struggle from their very first days of Head Start or kindergarten. That can make school a negative experience for a child who is unable to keep up with his or her peers. Other factors in a child’s home environment, like a divorce, incarceration of a parent, or poverty and food insecurity, can also distract them from their schooling.

“They’re not going to be focused on experiencing what’s going on around them and it makes it more difficult them for learn,” says Grigsby.

These adverse childhood experiences also set the stage for later medical problems.

“Children who have cognitive or emotional or behavioral deficits from early on, they’re much more likely to adopt high-risk health behaviors,” says Grigsby.

They’re more likely to smoke, abuse alcohol or drugs, and suffer from depression. As they grow older, poor health and low academic achievement can impact employability and productivity, and can lead to illegal activity, incarceration, and even premature death.

Reading Really Is Fundamental
But it doesn’t have to be that way.

“The earlier we can identify those [cognitive and emotional] delays, the more likely we are to make those delays go away,’ says Grigsby.

She says the state has programs to assess infants and children and provide them with additional support services as needed. The state and schools can devote resources to finding alternative ways to educate children who don’t learn by traditional methods. Grigsby also says parents, family members, and other caregivers can commit themselves to provide a nurturing environment with positive stimulations that will promote healthy brain development and foster a love of learning in the child.

And that can start by playing with and reading to your newborn every day.

“Playing gives them an opportunity to interact with objects and to interact with other people,” Grigsby says. “It gives them the opportunity to engage all of their senses, which we know they need to be able to learn.”

To ensure that all newborns have access to books, pediatricians across Kentucky are part of the Reach Out and Read early childhood literacy program. They give books to children and families from the infant’s first office visit until the child reaches five years of age. Grigsby says the program helps families build a library of age-appropriate books and it models good reading behaviors for parents.

Even if the parent isn’t a good reader, Grigsby says he or she can still sit with the child and point out pictures, colors, and individual words in the books and make up their own stories about what the child is seeing. If a child has a favorite book, it’s okay to read it to them as much as they want.

“The good news is that it really helps you’re child’s brain development to have repetition,” says Grigsby. “So reading ‘Goodnight Moon’ 500 times is really good for their brain, and the bad news is you have to read ‘Goodnight Moon’ 500 times.”

Grigsby also says its normal for a child to want to chew or suck on their favorite book.

“They need to taste it, they need to see it, they need to hear it, they need to smell it,” she says. “They need to have all of those senses engaged for their brain to be stimulated maximally.”

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Season 13 Episodes

Marcie Timmerman - Mental Health and Wellness

S13 E43 Length 28:03 Premiere Date 08/24/18

Tiffany Manuel - Affordable Housing

S13 E42 Length 27:32 Premiere Date 08/17/18

Jessica Dueñas - 2019 Kentucky Teacher of the Year

S13 E41 Length 28:52 Premiere Date 08/10/18

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S13 E37 Length 28:48 Premiere Date 07/13/18

A New Task Force on Opioids

S13 E36 Length 28:07 Premiere Date 07/06/18

Shining a Spotlight on Epilepsy

S13 E35 Length 28:02 Premiere Date 06/29/18

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S13 E34 Length 28:32 Premiere Date 06/22/18

Jay Box - Kentucky Community and Technical College

S13 E33 Length 28:03 Premiere Date 06/15/18

Interim Kentucky Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis

S13 E32 Length 28:03 Premiere Date 06/08/18

Bob King - Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education

S13 E31 Length 28:09 Premiere Date 06/01/18

Rachel Childress - Lexington Habitat for Humanity

S13 E30 Length 26:22 Premiere Date 05/25/18

2018 Kentucky Primary Races

S13 E29 Length 29:52 Premiere Date 05/18/18

Dr. Donna Grigsby

S13 E28 Length 28:03 Premiere Date 05/11/18

Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention

S13 E27 Length 28:02 Premiere Date 05/04/18

Kosair Charities Face It Movement; Terry Brooks

S13 E25 Length 28:27 Premiere Date 04/20/18

Child Marriage Laws in Kentucky - Donna Pollard

S13 E24 Length 28:42 Premiere Date 04/13/18

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

S13 E23 Length 29:22 Premiere Date 04/06/18

Secretary Derrick Ramsey - Apprenticeships

S13 E22 Length 28:09 Premiere Date 02/23/18

Educational Innovation

S13 E21 Length 28:45 Premiere Date 02/16/18

Gerald Smith

S13 E20 Length 28:12 Premiere Date 02/09/18

Perry Bacon Jr.

S13 E18 Length 28:02 Premiere Date 02/02/18

DV8 Kitchen

S13 E17 Length 28:37 Premiere Date 01/19/18

Silas House, New Novel

S13 E16 Length 28:03 Premiere Date 01/16/18

Tawanda Owsley

S13 E15 Length 26:32 Premiere Date 01/05/18

Sexual Harassment Issues

S13 E14 Length 28:37 Premiere Date 12/15/17

Disability Rates and Benefits

S13 E13 Length 27:27 Premiere Date 12/08/17

Good Samaritans

S13 E12 Length 28:42 Premiere Date 11/17/17

A Salute to Heroes

S13 E10 Length 26:18 Premiere Date 11/10/17

Legislative Health Policy

S13 E9 Length 28:12 Premiere Date 11/03/17

Elder Care

S13 E8 Length 29:31 Premiere Date 10/27/17

Preventing Youth Suicide

S13 E7 Length 28:17 Premiere Date 10/20/17

A Proposal for Pension Reform

S13 E6 Length 28:02 Premiere Date 10/13/17

Rethinking Pain Medication

S13 E5 Length 28:02 Premiere Date 10/06/17

Former Gov. Steve Beshear

S13 E4 Length 28:53 Premiere Date 09/29/17

Secretary Elaine Chao

S13 E3 Length 28:52 Premiere Date 09/22/17

Smoking Cessation and Pregnancy

S13 E2 Length 29:32 Premiere Date 09/08/17

Author and Journalist Sam Quinones

S13 E1 Length 28:52 Premiere Date 09/01/17

Author and Journalist Sam Quinones

Preview Length 28:52 Premiere Date 09/01/17

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  • Monday September 26, 2022 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday September 26, 2022 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Monday September 26, 2022 5:29 am ET on KETKY
  • Monday September 26, 2022 4:29 am CT on KETKY

David Adkins - The Council of State Governments - S18 E3

  • Sunday September 25, 2022 6:00 pm ET on KET2
  • Sunday September 25, 2022 5:00 pm CT on KET2
  • Sunday September 25, 2022 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Sunday September 25, 2022 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Sunday September 25, 2022 11:59 am ET on KET
  • Sunday September 25, 2022 10:59 am CT on KET

Kevin Chapman - S10 E28

  • Friday September 23, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday September 23, 2022 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday September 23, 2022 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday September 23, 2022 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday September 23, 2022 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Friday September 23, 2022 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Kendell Nash - ECHO - S10 E27

  • Thursday September 22, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Thursday September 22, 2022 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Thursday September 22, 2022 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Thursday September 22, 2022 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Dorothy Edwards and Diane Fleet - S10 E26

  • Wednesday September 21, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday September 21, 2022 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday September 21, 2022 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday September 21, 2022 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Elaine Chao - S10 E23

  • Tuesday September 20, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday September 20, 2022 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday September 20, 2022 2:06 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday September 20, 2022 1:06 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday September 20, 2022 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday September 20, 2022 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Diabetes Epidemic - S10 E20

  • Monday September 19, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday September 19, 2022 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Monday September 19, 2022 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday September 19, 2022 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Monday September 19, 2022 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Monday September 19, 2022 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Melynda Jamison - CASA of Lexington - S18 E2

  • Sunday September 25, 2022 8:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Sunday September 25, 2022 7:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Saturday September 24, 2022 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Saturday September 24, 2022 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Sunday September 18, 2022 6:00 pm ET on KET2
  • Sunday September 18, 2022 5:00 pm CT on KET2
  • Sunday September 18, 2022 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Sunday September 18, 2022 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Sunday September 18, 2022 12:00 pm ET on KET
  • Sunday September 18, 2022 11:00 am CT on KET

Mary Gwen Wheeler, 55,000 Degrees - S10 E16

  • Friday September 16, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday September 16, 2022 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday September 16, 2022 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday September 16, 2022 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday September 16, 2022 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Friday September 16, 2022 4:30 am CT on KETKY

15K Degrees Initiative - S10 E13

  • Thursday September 15, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Thursday September 15, 2022 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Thursday September 15, 2022 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Thursday September 15, 2022 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Sister Helen Prejean - S10 E12

  • Wednesday September 14, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday September 14, 2022 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday September 14, 2022 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday September 14, 2022 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Jefferson County Veterans Treatment Court - S10 E11

  • Tuesday September 13, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday September 13, 2022 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday September 13, 2022 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday September 13, 2022 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday September 13, 2022 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday September 13, 2022 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Bill Farmer - S10 E8

  • Monday September 12, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday September 12, 2022 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Monday September 12, 2022 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday September 12, 2022 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Monday September 12, 2022 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Monday September 12, 2022 4:30 am CT on KETKY

State Treasurer Allison Ball - S18 E1

  • Sunday September 11, 2022 6:00 pm ET on KET2
  • Sunday September 11, 2022 5:00 pm CT on KET2
  • Sunday September 11, 2022 12:00 pm ET on KET
  • Sunday September 11, 2022 11:00 am CT on KET

Reporter Jonathan Bullington - S17 E23

  • Sunday September 18, 2022 8:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Sunday September 18, 2022 7:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Saturday September 17, 2022 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Saturday September 17, 2022 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Sunday September 11, 2022 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Sunday September 11, 2022 3:30 pm CT on KETKY

Diane Follingstad - UK Women's Circle Endowment Chair - S10 E6

  • Friday September 9, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday September 9, 2022 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday September 9, 2022 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday September 9, 2022 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday September 9, 2022 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Friday September 9, 2022 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Kevin Chapman - S10 E5

  • Thursday September 8, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Thursday September 8, 2022 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Thursday September 8, 2022 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Thursday September 8, 2022 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Thursday September 8, 2022 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Thursday September 8, 2022 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Soreyda Benedit Begley and Chris Begley - S10 E3

  • Wednesday September 7, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday September 7, 2022 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday September 7, 2022 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday September 7, 2022 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday September 7, 2022 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday September 7, 2022 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Bloggers on Personal Development - S10 E2

  • Tuesday September 6, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday September 6, 2022 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday September 6, 2022 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday September 6, 2022 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday September 6, 2022 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday September 6, 2022 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Chris Rabb - S10 E1

  • Monday September 5, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday September 5, 2022 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Monday September 5, 2022 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday September 5, 2022 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Monday September 5, 2022 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Monday September 5, 2022 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Nikki Lanier - Harper Slade - S17 E22

  • Sunday September 11, 2022 8:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Sunday September 11, 2022 7:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Saturday September 10, 2022 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Saturday September 10, 2022 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Sunday September 4, 2022 6:00 pm ET on KET2
  • Sunday September 4, 2022 5:00 pm CT on KET2
  • Sunday September 4, 2022 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Sunday September 4, 2022 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Sunday September 4, 2022 12:00 pm ET on KET
  • Sunday September 4, 2022 11:00 am CT on KET

Delanor Manson - Kentucky Nurses Association - S17 E36

  • Sunday September 4, 2022 8:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Sunday September 4, 2022 7:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Sunday August 28, 2022 6:00 pm ET on KET2
  • Sunday August 28, 2022 5:00 pm CT on KET2
  • Sunday August 28, 2022 12:00 pm ET on KET
  • Sunday August 28, 2022 11:00 am CT on KET

Tanya Torp and Holly Houston - S9 E46

  • Friday September 2, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday September 2, 2022 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday September 2, 2022 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday September 2, 2022 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday September 2, 2022 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Friday September 2, 2022 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Frontier Nursing University - S9 E45

  • Thursday September 1, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Thursday September 1, 2022 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Thursday September 1, 2022 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Thursday September 1, 2022 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Thursday September 1, 2022 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Thursday September 1, 2022 4:30 am CT on KETKY

SWAG - Sisters and Supporters Working Against Gun Violence - S9 E44

  • Wednesday August 31, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday August 31, 2022 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday August 31, 2022 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday August 31, 2022 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday August 31, 2022 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday August 31, 2022 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Marta Miranda - S9 E43

  • Tuesday August 30, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday August 30, 2022 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday August 30, 2022 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday August 30, 2022 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday August 30, 2022 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday August 30, 2022 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Judi Jennings - S9 E42

  • Monday August 29, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday August 29, 2022 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
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