This week, infants, toddlers and the adults who love and serve them lost a friend and advocate in J. Ronald Lally. Ron served most recently, as the Co-Director of Center for Child and Family Studies at WestEd where he directed the Program for Infant/Toddler Care. He spent nearly 30 years at WestEd after years of research and teaching at Syracuse University as well as contributing to the development of Early Head Start.
Many across GA had the opportunity to learn from Ron’s lectures at PITC institutes across the country, through his writings in professional periodicals, and via colleagues modeling best practices that had been initiated and inspired by Ron’s work. Universally, he was known as a pioneer – willing to go where few had gone before to better understand infant/toddler development and to promote the use of good research in shaping policy and informing day-to-day practices.
Personally, I have a vivid memory of a conversation with Ron as he was helping me try to understand and empathize with the infants and toddlers as they go through the daily experience of constructing knowledge and understanding. He was illustrating how much they must observe and how persistent they must be in order to understand and act. I have other memories, too – one where he shared the many (eight, I think) suspected possible causes of biting; another where he told our group about the ideal infant-teacher ratio of 1:3. It was hard for me to walk away from a lecture or article by Ron and not be shaken in a good way.
Ron covered a lot of ground in his lectures and writings, and everyone who heard or read his words probably took something slightly different away. However, I am certain, all shared the takeaways that 1) infants and toddlers are amazing people capable of great things and worthy of great care; 2) the people who care for infants and toddlers (family, friends and professionals) are critical in the lives of those children and in society; and 3) these two groups – young children and those who care for them – deserve respect and support within their communities to protect and promote healthy relationships and development.
Ron’s impact has made, and will continue to make, great ripples of impact around the globe. If you’ve made it this far, and you want to catch a glimpse of Ron’s work and heart, check out this great article which he co-authored with Peter Mangione for NAEYC just a few years ago: Caring Relationships: The Heart of Early Brain Development.