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Smarter children in prospect?

Creating an intellectually stimulating environment for your children will not only make them smarter, it may also make your grandchildren and great-grandchildren smarter, according to one intelligence theorist.

The factors that determine intelligence are about 70% genetic and 30% environmental, says Miles D. Storfer, president of the Foundation for Brain Research, based in Douglaston, New York. Parents can be shown ways to improve their children's chances of attaining markedly higher intelligence levels, he argues in his book Intelligence and Giftedness.

Based on his examination of several early-development programs, Storfer proposes that the quality of the intellectual environment in the first two years of life can make "a dramatic and lasting difference in [children's] measured intelligence."

Storfer postulates that, since the biochemical activity of neurons in the brain centers that are responsible for higher intelligence is activated after birth, intelligence can be influenced by exposure to certain stimuli early in a baby's development. Consequently," says Storfer, "teaching young children (during the critical periods of postnatal brain development) that specific concepts have special significance not only may endow these children with basic skills for lifelong learning but may also make it easier for their children and/or grandchildren to learn these same concepts."

Culling the results of a broad range of studies, Storfer describes several things that parents (or other caregivers) can do to accelerate their children's cognitive development, including:

* Stress nurturing behaviors such as rocking and soothing. Eye contact enhanced with vivid facial expressions (e.g., widely opened eyes, broad smile) elicits strong interest in infants.

* Attract the baby's attention to stimuli that are appropriate to its limited abilities; use repetition with patterned novelty" to help the baby distinguish different sights and sounds. High-contrast black-andwhite objects have been found especially stimulating to babies, and talking "baby talk- (i.e., speaking slowly and with a rising and falling pitch) helps infants decode speech.

* Engage in "dialogue' with the baby, taking turns and imitating its vocalizations, facial expressions, and behaviors.

* Encourage the baby with praise for imitating the parent's expressions and sounds. This shows the infant its power to affect its own surroundings. It also helps nurture the baby's self-esteem and the sense that it is highly valued.

Evidence that IQ has risen relatively steadily throughout the twentieth century, combined with new-found knowledge about improving early cognitive development, suggests a very optimistic future for the intelligence of the human race, - Storfer concludes.

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Publication:The Futurist
Article Type:column
Date:May 1, 1991
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