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University of Florida Launches Early-Childhood Studies Center

On Dec. 14, the Gainesville-based University of Florida announced it is creating an interdisciplinary center for early-childhood research and practice. The Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies will bring together University of Florida scholars from education, law, medicine, public health, and the life sciences to work with national, state, and local partners on issues pertaining to young children and their families.

The College of Education will house the center's administrative facilities, and the university's two "Baby Gator" facilities for early care and education of infants, toddlers and preschoolers will serve as hubs for clinical research and practice. A third facility is in the planning stages. Currently, Baby Gator serves 240 children, with a waiting list of 200.

Leaders of the effort are involved in the Children's Movement of Florida, which Early Years reported on earlier this year for its Milk Party advocacy efforts. Children's Movement founder David Lawrence, Jr., holds an academic appointment at the University of Florida and is president of the Early Childhood Initiative Foundation in Miami, which partners with the university on early-learning efforts in Dade County. Patricia Snyder, an endowed professor of early-childhood studies, serves on the movement's Alachua County steering committee. Snyder says the new center will develop a infant-toddler (birth-to-three) specialization in early childhood teacher preparation.

Already, professors in education and pediatrics are collaborating on early prevention and intervention studies for young children with or at risk for disabilities, including young children with autism.

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