A team headed by St. George’s University faculty members has won a grant valued at CAN $250,000 from Grand Challenges Canada’s Saving Brains Program to expand its Conscious Discipline project.
Secured through the Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation (WINDREF), the grant opens the door for Drs. Barbara Landon and Randall Waechter, both of the University’s Department of Bioethics, and their team to reach approximately 1,700 infants with strategies that can prevent their maltreatment and foster the development of their brains to the fullest potential.
“If a child grows up not feeling safe or connected, the higher functions of the brain never really have the opportunity to develop,” said Dr. Landon, a neuropsychologist and licensed psychologist. “Our aim is to teach parents and caregivers Conscious Discipline so they will learn how to raise their children in a safe, stimulating, and connected home environment. Children raised in such environments are more likely to be really good thinkers and solve problems in their communities and country.”
“Numerous studies have demonstrated the harmful effects of violent punishment on the developing brain – especially among young children,” said Dr. Waechter, Research Grants Coordinator at WINDREF. “We believe that addressing violent punishment is critical to intellectual and social development in the next generation of Caribbean youth, and by extension, the wellbeing of the region as a whole.”
The Roving Caregivers, a group of young professional child care specialists who travel to local communities to conduct educational infant stimulation exercises with children, are a key component in this Saving Brains project. The Roving Caregivers, already being trained in Conscious Discipline, will receive more intensive training in this area later this year and will pass this training on to the parents and caregivers of the children with whom they work. After their training, the Rovers will become Conscious Discipline Paraprofessionals (CDPs) and will foster and support attachment and attunement between children and their parents and caregivers in addition to their usual focus.
The grant opens the door to exciting new prospects for the program. In January, the program will host Dr. Becky Bailey, founder of Conscious Discipline, to conduct a three-day training workshop in Grenada.
Another exciting component is the addition of a well-stocked mobile parent resource center in the form of a large, vibrantly colored bus replete with music, teaching aids, tools for making personalized homemade books for children and their families, and many more fun and educational resources.
“The bus will pull up once a month in areas where the Rovers go, an awning and tarp will be rolled out, and parents can bring their infants and sit in front of it and enjoy an array of refreshments,” said Dr. Landon. “It will be great and families will love it.”
Program Director Stephanie Holmes, a Conscious Discipline specialist, will be on hand to teach mini lessons from a full curriculum developed for the purpose. The program will also feature a research component for which research assistants will be hired to help evaluate families and track the success of the program.
The passionate team involved in the Conscious Discipline program also includes Lauren Orlando from SGU’s Department of Educational Services (DES); Dawne Cyrus, Director of the Roving Caregivers Program and social worker with responsibility for day care centers in Grenada; Tammy Martin from SGU’s Grand Anse Playgroup (GAP), an organization specializing in early child care and education; and Susan Brathwaite, a parent educator.
Grand Challenges Canada is funded by the Government of Canada and is dedicated to supporting “Bold Ideas with Big Impact” in global health. This grant is among the second round of successful applications under the Saving Brains program, and Grenada is one of two Caribbean countries to receive one.