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Early Brain Development Specialist Deb McNelis, M.Ed, Speaks Internationally; Offers Unique Guides on Loving Babies; Supports PACEs Connection Monthly


Deb McNelis, M.Ed, is an international speaker and author of materials supporting healthy infant and child brain development and the parent-child bond. She leads "The First Sixty Days" movement.

Twitter first made Deb McNelis aware of PACEs Connection. When she saw it pop up on her LinkedIn feed, she followed the links and was thrilled to find a community of “almost” like-minded people.

“We absolutely share the passion for preventing and healing childhood trauma; for building community,” said McNelis. But she says her work brings a sharper focus to the PACEs science movement, and a movement she herself is hoping to grow via PACEs Connection.

“I’ve been producing materials and speaking internationally for years about the importance of creating nurturing relationships with babies to establish that all-important   ‘secure attachment.’ But when Bruce Perry and fellow researchers produced the 2018 study on the importance of the timing of developmental adversity – and laid it out that the first two months are likely the most consequential two months in brain development for any child – I felt an even stronger passion for ensuring this essential and significant knowledge is understood by all adults.”

Click here  to see a brief clip of Dr. Bruce Perry with his co-author of “What Happened To You - Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing”, Oprah Winfrey.

“Essentially, Dr. Perry said the study shows that a child who has a horrible first two months – neglect or abuse, exposure to domestic violence, toxic stress – and a great next 12 years, is likely to have a worse life outcome than the child who has a nurturing, peaceful first two months and a horrible next 12 years! That should speak volumes to all of us, but especially expectant parents, employers who don’t offer paid parental leave, policymakers who don’t understand the need and the ultimate benefit of supporting families  – especially in the tender early years,” said McNelis.

She now works in earnest to promote “The First 60 Days” movement, educating parents, people working in parenting, home visiting, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatricians, educators, policymakers and everyone else she can think of, to make that first 60 days of life a sacred time of connection and secure attachment for mothers, parents, caregivers, and those precious newborns.

PACEs Connection CEO Ingrid Cockhren, herself the mother of a five-year-old and twins who are 18 months old, says she wishes more people would follow McNelis’s work, as she is beginning to do, and take McNelis’s lead in making monthly donations to PACEs Connection.

“We so appreciate Deb and the dozens of other people like Deb who are making small, steady, monthly donations. While we’re adding monthly donors, it would be good to see more of our almost 59,000 members – and literally millions of visitors – support our work to prevent and heal trauma," said Cockhren.

Cockhren is asking members to sign on now to make a monthly donation to help fund the organization’s work to prevent and heal trauma, which includes supporting this anti-racist, equity-driven website, as well as our work with communities, and the newsletters, podcasts, conferences, Resource Center, and other free tools and guides offered by PACEs Connection.

"If just ten percent of our members made an automatic monthly donation of $10, you could help us cover a substantial portion of our costs,” said Cockhren.

Please consider following in the footsteps of early brain development specialist and the creator of the Neuro-Nurturing(R) materials from Brain Insights – proud PACEs Connection monthly donor Deb McNellis.

1. Name - Deborah McNelis, M.Ed

2. Occupation - I am an Early Brain Development Specialist who is the Founder of Brain Insights, LLC. In this role I am an international speaker, an author of numerous materials, the creator of Neuro-Nurturing® and the initiator of The First 60 Days Movement.

Screen Shot 2023-05-23 at 3.25.41 PM3. What is your connection to PACEs Connection/PACEs science? - The emphasis of my work and purpose of Brain Insights is entirely focused on prevention. This especially is the reason behind writing The First 60 DaysBooklet and initiating The First 60 Days Movement. Creating an awareness and understanding of the essential need for consistent nurturing responsiveness in the earliest days, weeks, and months makes an incredibly positive difference.

(Magazine shown above is free to download here.)

We in this movement need to make this common knowledge, so we can better support parents and caregivers. An awareness of early brain development — with the realization of the impact of relationship trauma, stress, and neglect and an understanding of the need for meeting physical needs, providing nurturing, security and play — ultimately benefits everyone of us. It is “preventive justice”, as it truly puts infants, babies, and children on a path to achieving their highest potential, by wiring their brains for connection, love, and healthy relationships, as opposed to distrust, disconnection, and the greater potential to seek out relationships and situations that reinforce  unworthiness, poor self-perception,  neglect, or danger.

Screen Shot 2023-05-23 at 3.30.02 PM4. Do you work in the field? - Yes, all of my work is based on child development and brain science with a focus primarily on the earliest months and years since that is the time the brain is most malleable, providing us with the most positive opportunity for well-being in life.

5. How did you find out about PACEs Connection? - Through LinkedIn and Twitter.

6. Were you surprised to find this resource? - I am not sure that surprised is the word, but I was definitely delighted.

7. What part of PACEs Connection do you like best? - It is not easy to choose a part that I would label as best. There is such a wealth of information and resources provided in various ways. It is all great. But if I would single out one aspect, I would say the Weekly RoundUp.

8. How do you use PACEs Connection? - I use it as a source of gaining awareness of what is being done in various locations and in various ways toward creating positive outcomes and increasing needed awareness. It is encouraging to see numerous efforts taking place.

9. Do you read the Weekly RoundUp? - Yes. It is helpful.

10. Do you share stories from the Weekly RoundUp? - Yes, I have.

11. Do you belong to a resiliency initiative? - I currently do not but would like to explore getting involved in this way.

12. What prompted you to support PACEs Connection with your gift? - I fully support providing financial help in hopes of reducing the number of children and families experiencing ACEs.

13. What keeps you giving as a monthly donor? - I want to continue to support the efforts of people who are leading the way toward significantly reducing the number of children whose brains are being developed in the midst of toxic stress. The science is there to show that it isn’t healthy for children to be in constant toxic stress. There are buffering effects as the result of positive childhood experiences – PCEs. It is essential that we get this message to everyone that has a direct or indirect influence on the development of children. Every child needs at least one nurturing relationship!

14. What would you tell others, to encourage them to support PACEs Connection on a monthly basis? - Something I say frequently is, EVERYONE needs to understand the impact experiences have on the developing brain, because when ALL children have the positive experiences they require from the start, we ALL benefit.

Screen Shot 2023-05-23 at 3.35.26 PM15. What is your greatest hope for what happens with PACEs science? That we end child abuse? Create equity? Eliminate racism? Do away with poverty?  Create a trauma-informed and healing-centered planet?  -  Every aspect listed here needs to happen. My greatest hope is that through sharing the understanding of early brain development and the importance of nurturing our babies and children, and each other, that the shared value of commonality and community can grow. We can create a  ripple effect of support and acceptance, instead of judgment and labels. It really does make a difference. There is great power in even just one caring adult positively interacting with a child. We can help people become that caring adult. We can help activate people to share the word about the importance of making the first 60 days of life a time of sacred connection and secure attachment that lays the foundation for physical and mental health, learning, positive behavior and self-perception, and the increased likelihood of overall well-being across the lifespan.

McNelis encourages fellow members of PACEs Connection to join her in making a monthly tax-deductible donation to PACEs Connection here.

One-time donations are encouraged as well!

If you'd prefer to mail your gift rather than give it online, here's how...

Make check payable to:
TSNE (Third Sector New England, our fiscal sponsor) and write PACEs Connection Donation on the memo line.

Mail check to:
PACEs Connection, c/o TSNE, 89 South Street, Suite 700, Boston, MA 02111

Making a wire transfer or need Tax ID information?

Please contact Carey Sipp, Director of Strategic Partnerships, at

If you would like to be featured as a monthly donor, please send an email to Carey Sipp, director of strategic partnerships, with "Donor Spotlight" in the subject line to answer the 15 questions and let your fellow community members know more about you, how you use PACEs Connection, why you support the work.


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