The term “early childhood development” usually connotes pre-K or kindergarten. What about the years prior? That’s the question that Ashley Borthick sought to answer.
Borthick worked at an inpatient facility for children as an undergraduate at Southern Nazarene University.
“Children could be there 5 and older, and I remember thinking there had to be some kind of foundation for these kids before they reached the age of 5,” she said.
She pursued a master’s degree in human development and early childhood disorders. During her internship with Nexus Recovery Center, she was introduced to a tool that would help her create the healthy foundation that youth need prior to age 5: the Texas Association for Infant Mental Health.
“TAIMH is completely impassioned with getting the message out that the first three years of life matter,” said Borthick, now a TAIMH volunteer.
TAIMH is a nonprofit committed to healthy emotional growth of infants and toddlers. It provides training and informational sessions for anyone who cares for infants, toddlers, or their families.
Volunteer Sadie Funk was drawn to TAIMH due to her hunger for more knowledge. The more she delved into brain development, the more she wanted to voice its importance.
FUN FACT: TAIMH is the only statewide organization focused on the social and emotional health of infants and toddlers.
UPCOMING TALK: “Strong Fathers, Strong Families” with Mike Hall, March 27, 11:15 a.m., 1600 Viceroy Drive
GET INVOLVED: taimh.org
“The more I learned about it, the more I’d realize just how much relationships and everyday interactions with children deeply impact who and how they grow up,” said Funk, the TAIMH executive director.
The concept of supporting those in infant mental health began in 1980 by a group of UT Southwestern students and volunteers. In 1986, the group was incorporated.
“For many years, it was run by volunteers who would get together and read books, articles, and really delve into the subject,” Funk said. “Closer to six years ago is when they got their first executive director, but for along time it depended on volunteers.”
TAIMH operates out of North Texas with five regional chapters. The organization has trained more than 4,000 professionals working with infants and toddlers and has a membership base of 500 across the state.
One unique tool that sets TAIMH apart is its Endorsement System. The nationally recognized program ensures those working with infants and toddlers understand that a child develops in the context of relationships. Each endorsement level has a different set of competencies. The hours required to obtain your endorsement credential depends on your background.
“Our training was from January through September and we covered topics like attachment, temperament, pregnancy, the effects of drug abuse, and things of that nature,” Borthick said.
About 80 to 90 percent of brain capacity is developed in the first three years of life, and, given the skills and tools, these workers have major influence on this development. The organization has done a training series for the Dallas Women’s Foundation, and holds a monthly series called “Food for Thought” to discuss new information in infant health.
Funk believes it’s about figuring it out together.
“It’s been so much fun to be able to help parents find the pleasure in the children and really be that strong first teacher that every parent can be,” Funk said.