Promoting Children’s Mental Health Awareness
Linda Gilkerson and Pamela Epley
Linda Gilkerson, Ph.D., LSW, is a professor at Erikson Institute where she directs the graduate training programs in infancy and infant mental health.
Pamela Epley, Ph.D., is an associate clinical professor and director of special education at Erikson Institute.
ED: We are celebrating Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day in May. Could you tell us what efforts you have been involved in to improve the quality of early childhood programs and services to better address young children’s mental health?
Infant and early childhood mental health (IECMH) is synonymous with healthy social-emotional (SE) development and robust early learning, including the ability to regulate and express emotions; form close personal relationships; and explore the environment and learn in the context of family, community, and culture. Over the past years, we have worked with Illinois’ Early Intervention (EI) system to increase its focus on children’s SE development. We’ve done this by promoting relationship-based services, more systematic screening of SE development, and the addition of SE Consultants.
Alicia Brewer Curran works at the University of Missouri, where she is the director of operations for the Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes (ECHO) Autism Program, and serves as a parent panelist on three expert hub teams. Additionally, she is the family faculty member for the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) program, program manager and quality improvement lead for the Autism Learning Health Network (AHLN), and the CDC’s Learn the Signs. Act Early. ambassador for Missouri.
ED: How did you begin your career in early childhood?
My interest in early childhood began after my son was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Due to lack of knowledge, I didn’t realize how concerned I should be about the differences I observed in his development, and I didn’t recognize that these differences were the early symptoms of autism. That resulted in my son losing out on two years of early intervention services.
Diana Capobianco is a private practice pediatric dentist, Executive Board Maryland Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and Liaison to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and Maryland Chapter of AAP. Her career as a pediatric dentist includes working with infants, children, teens and individuals with intellectual disabilities and autism. Diana holds several positions in local county offices of the Maryland Department of Health and serves on the AAP Dentistry national education committee.
ED: How did you begin your work in early childhood?
My desire to work with kids goes way back to my own youth. I always enjoyed being around kids, baby-sitting and tutoring, assisting with kids at after-school play time, that sort of thing, but I also wanted to work in healthcare helping others. A career in pediatric dentistry was a natural melding of those pursuits.
Ginger Roberts-Scott, Director of the Maine Women, Infant, and Children Supplemental Nutrition program, began her career as a licensed social worker working with individuals with intellectual disability and autism. Throughout her 32 years in a public health service career, Ginger has held several positions in the Maine Department of Health and Human Services helping children, senior citizens and people with disabilities access services, education and employment to gain self-sufficiency.
ED: How did you begin your career in early childhood?
My bachelor’s degree is in Human Services with a focus on intellectual disabilities and autism. I worked at the Maine State Medicaid office as the children’s and waiver services program manager and was responsible for making sure children received services to which they were entitled, especially early intervention services. Prior to that I determined eligibility for Medicaid services. In 2017, I moved to the Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) program after 26 years at Medicaid. Working at WIC in my current position is a continuation of advocating for children.
Developing Executive Functioning Skills through Games
Grace is co-founder of Kiko Labs, an educational company creating learning games based on principles of neuroscience. She has been the principal investigator on two small business innovation research (SBIR) grants funded by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) in the U.S. Department of Education and another grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Prior to founding Kiko Labs, Grace spent 15 years in product roles in the technology industry, including a stint at Microsoft. Grace holds an AB in Economics and MS in Management Science and Engineering from Stanford and received an MBA from Harvard Business School. Her research interests include game-based learning and assessment as well as technology-infused learning applied to all facets of school readiness.
The Power of Parental Engagement
Ms. Yetta Myrick is the mother of a teenage son with special needs. She is the founder and president of DC Autism Parents (DCAP), a non-profit organization. At DCPA, Yetta has created programs for children diagnosed with autism and their families and oversees the daily operations of the organization. Yetta serves as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s Act Early Ambassador to D.C. In this role, she promotes developmental monitoring and assists families in getting the help they need to access services for their children.
Supporting Dual Language Learners
Karen Nemeth, Ed.M. is Senior Training and Technical Assistance Specialist -Dual Language Learners for the National Center on Early Childhood Development, Teaching, and Learning. She has published more than a dozen books on early education for children who are growing up with two or more languages and she has held leadership roles in organizations such as the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), National Association for Bilingual Education (NABE), and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) International Association .
Leading High-Quality Early Childhood Programs
Katherine Hutchens is the director of early childhood services, Methodist Home for Children, Raleigh, NC. She oversees two childcare centers, Jordan Child and Family Enrichment Center and the brand-new Barbara H. Curtis Center. Katherine has a bachelor’s degree in history from Dickinson College and held a teaching license for secondary social studies. She holds a master’s degree in early childhood from Augusta College. She has enjoyed over 25 years of early childhood program administration in Virginia, Georgia, and North Carolina.
Donna Fishman, MPH, is the Director for the National Center for Children’s Vision and Eye Health (NCCVEH) at Prevent Blindness. She facilitates and manages the Better Vision Together Community of Practice (in which the Minneapolis Public Schools participates) and manages the development of a family vision resource kit for Head Start and other early childhood education and care agencies to increase parent/caregiver education around children’s vision and eye health.
Advancing in the Early Childhood Field
Eric Elmore is a doctoral scholar in early childhood special education at the University of Colorado Denver. He is also an affiliate professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver and the chair of the board of directors of the Colorado Association for the Education of Young Children. He has over eight years of experience working in early childhood education in various capacities including as a teacher, staff developer, coach, and community and family leader. Eric has a passion for bringing individuals into the early childhood profession and supporting them in advancing in their careers.