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Navy Cmdr. Mark Russell, director of EDIS for mainland Japan, is leading three lectures off base at Iwakuni on early childhood development.

Navy Cmdr. Mark Russell, director of EDIS for mainland Japan, is leading three lectures off base at Iwakuni on early childhood development. (Juliana Gittler / S&S)

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan — It all started with two experts on children chatting.

The principal at the off-base day-care center, where Navy Cmdr. Mark Russell and his wife brought their 2-year-old, asked about Russell’s job as director of Educational and Development Intervention Services (EDIS) for bases across Japan. They discussed the concept of early intervention — finding, correcting and preventing problems very early on. The talk sparked an idea.

Russell, a child psychologist, and the day-care center, called Funky Momo Yochien, decided to bring the concept to Japanese families. This summer, Russell will lead three lectures, translated into Japanese, at Funky Momo. “It’s the first time EDIS has been involved in education and public awareness off base,” Russell said.

EDIS is the military’s early intervention program. At every base, children are screened between birth and 3 years of age for developmental problems including motor skills, emotional development, hearing and speech and socialization. Programs also look at external factors such as nutrition, home life and stress, Russell said.

Early intervention redresses problems while a child’s brain is still developing, before age 3.

The program also is proactive — teaching families how best to improve their children’s development even if there aren’t problems.

Russell said early intervention has proven very successful in the 10 years it’s been in place at U.S. schools. Studies show it can improve children’s intelligence, emotional stability, grades and socialization and can help them go further with their education, get better jobs and stay out of jail, he said.

“That’s why I think more families can benefit from learning what helps and hurts,” he said. “It changes every aspect of a child’s development.”

The first lecture at the day-care center will focus on what early intervention is and why it is critical. The second, on prenatal care and attachment. The last is titled “Why Children Misbehave and What Parents Can Do.”

That one, Russell notes, “is very popular for American and Japanese alike.”

Off-base seminar schedule

Cmdr. Mark Russell, director of Educational and Developmental Intervention Services for mainland Japan will give lectures with Japanese translation on “Raising Successful and Competent Children in the 21st Century” at Funky Momo Yochien:

June 24: Why Early Intervention is CriticalJuly 17: Importance of Prenatal Care and AttachmentAug. 4: Why Children Misbehave and What Parents Can DoFor information, call EDIS office manager James Hood at DSN 253-4562.

— Juliana Gittler

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