Requirements For Having Knowledge Of Child Development For The Special Education Teachers
Justify The Requirements For Having Knowledge Of Child Development For The Special Education Teachers.
In infancy, toddler, and early childhood, the body’s physical development accelerates. On average, a newborn weighs between 5 and 10 pounds, and a newborn’s weight usually doubles in six months and triples in a year. Weight will quadruple at 2 years old, so we can expect a 2-year-old to weigh between 20 and 40 pounds. The average length of a newborn is 19.5 inches, increasing to 29.5 inches by 12 months and 34.4 inches by 2 years of age (WHO Multi-Center Growth Reference Study Group, 2006).
Children experience rapid physical changes in infancy and early childhood. (Credit “Left”: Editing work by Carrie Cusack Credit “Middle Left”: Editing work by Christy Fouzel ؛ Credit “Middle Right”: Editing work by “Divine” / Flickr ڈ Credit “Right”: Editing Rose Spellman’s work)
During infancy and childhood, growth does not occur at a steady rate (Carroll, Lahlo, Roger, & Chosen, 2004). Between the ages of 4 and 6, growth slows down: during this time children grow 5-7 pounds and grow about 2-3 inches each year. Once girls reach 8-9 years of age, their growth rate is higher than that of boys due to the increase in puberty. This increase lasts until about the age of 12, with the onset of menstruation. At 10 years old, the average girl weighs 88 pounds, and the average boy weighs 85 pounds.
We are born with all the brain cells that we have – about 100-200 billion neurons (nerve cells) that are responsible for storing and transmitting information (Huttonlocher and Dabholkar, 1997). However, the growth and development of the nervous system continue. Each nervous system makes thousands of new connections during childhood and adolescence.
This period of rapid neural development is called blooming. During puberty, the nervous system develops. After the opening period of neural development is the period of harvest, where the neural connections are reduced. Harvesting is thought to cause the brain to function more efficiently, leading to the acquisition of more complex skills (Hutchinson, 2011). The opening occurs during the first few years of life, and pruning continues in different areas of the brain until childhood and adolescence.
The size of our brain is increasing rapidly. For example, a 2-year-old’s brain is 55% of its adult size, and a 6-year-old’s brain is about 90% of its adult size (Tanner, 1978). During early childhood (ages 3-6), frontal lobes grow rapidly. Recalling our earlier discussion of the 4 lobes of the brain in this book, frontal lobes are concerned with planning, reasoning, memory, and control of continuity. Therefore, by the time children reach school age, they are able to control their attention and behavior. During the early academic years, the frontal, temporal, occipital, and parietal lobes grow to all sizes. The experience of brain development in childhood follows Piaget’s series of cognitive development to lead to significant changes in neural functions for cognitive development (Kolb & Whishaw, 2009; Overman, Bachevalier, Turner, & Peuster, 1992).
Motor development takes place in a systematic way as children move from reflex responses (such as sucking and rooting) to more advanced motor work. For example, children learn to lift their head first, then sit with help, and then sit without help, then crawl and then walk.
Motor skills refer to our ability to move our bodies and manipulate objects. Excellent motor skills focus on our fingers, toes, and eye muscles, and coordinate small movements (e.g., holding a toy, writing with a pencil, and using a spoon). Aggregate motor skills focus on the major muscle groups that control our arms and legs and include large movements (such as balancing, running, and jumping).
As motor skills develop, there are some developmental milestones that young children should achieve. For each milestone, there is an average age, as well as an age range within which to reach the milestone. An example of a development milestone. On average, most babies sit alone at 7 months of age. Sitting involves both coordination and muscle strength, and 90% of children achieve this milestone between the ages of 5 and 9 months. In another example, on average babies are able to hold their head at 6 weeks old, and 90% of babies achieve this between 3 weeks and 4 months old. If the baby is not raising its head by the age of 4 months, then it is showing a delay. If the child is delaying several milestones, this is a cause for concern, and the parent or caregiver should discuss this with the child’s pediatrician. Some developmental delays can be identified and resolved through early intervention.
|2||Kicks a ball; walks up and downstairs||Plays alongside other children; copies adults||Points to objects when named; put 2–4 words together in a sentence||Sorts shapes and colors; follow 2-step instructions|
|3||Climbs and runs; pedals tricycle||Takes turns; expresses many emotions; dresses self||Names familiar things; uses pronouns||Plays make-believe; works toy with parts (levers, handles)|
|4||Catches balls; use scissors||Prefers social play to solo play; knows likes and interests||Knows songs and rhymes by memory||Names colors and numbers; begins writing letters|
|5||Hops and swings; use fork and spoon||Distinguishes real from pretend; likes to please friends||Speaks clearly; uses full sentences||Counts to 10 or higher; prints some letters and copies basic shapes|
|Developmental Milestones, Ages 2–5 Years|
In addition to rapid physical growth, young children also exhibit significant development of their cognitive abilities. Piaget thought that children’s ability to understand objects—such as learning that a rattle makes a noise when shaken—was a cognitive skill that develops slowly as a child matures and interacts with the environment. Today, developmental psychologists think Piaget was incorrect. Researchers have found that even very young children understand objects and how they work long before they have experience with those objects (Baillargeon, 1987; Baillargeon, Li, Gertner, & Wu, 2011). For example, children as young as 3 months old demonstrated knowledge of the properties of objects that they had only viewed and did not have prior experience with them.
In one study, 3-month-old infants were shown a truck rolling down a track and behind a screen. The box, which appeared solid but was actually hollow, was placed next to the track. The truck rolled past the box as would be expected. Then the box was placed on the track to block the path of the truck. When the truck was rolled down the track this time, it continued unimpeded. The infants spent significantly more time looking at this impossible event. Baillargeon (1987) concluded that they knew solid objects cannot pass through each other. Baillargeon’s findings suggest that very young children have an understanding of objects and how they work, which Piaget (1954) would have said is beyond their cognitive abilities due to their limited experiences in the world.
Just as there are physical milestones that we expect children to reach, there are also cognitive milestones. It is helpful to be aware of these milestones as children gain new abilities to think, problem-solve, and communicate. For example, infants shake their head “no” around 6–9 months, and they respond to verbal requests to do things like “wave bye-bye” or “blow a kiss” around 9–12 months. Remember Piaget’s ideas about object permanence? We can expect children to grasp the concept that objects continue to exist even when they are not in sight by around 8 months old. Because toddlers have mastered object permanence, they enjoy games like hiding and seek, and they realize that when someone leaves the room they will come back (Loop, 2013). Toddlers also point to pictures in books and look inappropriate places when you ask them to find objects.
Preschool-age children (i.e., 3–5 years old) also make steady progress in cognitive development. Not only can they count, name colors, and tell you their name and age, but they can also make some decisions on their own, such as choosing an outfit to wear. Preschool-age children understand basic time concepts and sequencing (e.g., before and after), and they can predict what will happen next in a story. They also begin to enjoy the use of humor in stories. Because they can think symbolically, they enjoy pretend play and inventing elaborate characters and scenarios. One of the most common examples of their cognitive growth is their blossoming curiosity. Preschool-age children love to ask “Why?”
An important cognitive change occurs in children this age. Recall that Piaget described 2–3-year-olds as egocentric, meaning that they do not have an awareness of others’ points of view. Between 3 and 5 years old, children come to understand that people have thoughts, feelings, and beliefs that are different from their own. This is known as theory-of-mind (TOM). Children can use this skill to tease others, persuade their parents to purchase a candy bar, or understand why a sibling might be angry. When children develop TOM, they can recognize that others have false beliefs (Dennett, 1987; Callaghan et al., 2005).
Cognitive skills continue to expand in middle and late childhood (6–11 years old). Thought processes become more logical and organized when dealing with concrete information. Children at this age understand concepts such as the past, present, and future, giving them the ability to plan and work toward goals. Additionally, they can process complex ideas such as addition and subtraction and cause-and-effect relationships. However, children’s attention spans tend to be very limited until they are around 11 years old. After that point, it begins to improve through adulthood.
One well-researched aspect of cognitive development is language acquisition. As mentioned earlier, the order in which children learn language structures is consistent across children and cultures (Hatch, 1983). You’ve also learned that some psychological researchers have proposed that children possess a biological predisposition for language acquisition.
Starting before birth, babies begin to develop language and communication skills. At birth, babies apparently recognize their mother’s voice and can discriminate between the language(s) spoken by their mothers and foreign languages, and they show preferences for faces that are moving in synchrony with audible language (Blossom & Morgan, 2006; Pickens, 1994; Spelke & Cortelyou, 1981).
Children communicate information through gesturing long before they speak, and there is some evidence that gesture usage predicts subsequent language development (Iverson & Goldin-Meadow, 2005). In terms of producing spoken language, babies begin to coo almost immediately. Cooing is a one-syllable combination of a consonant and a vowel sound (e.g., coo or ba). Interestingly, babies replicate sounds from their own languages. A baby whose parents speak French will coo in a different tone than a baby whose parents speak Spanish or Urdu. After cooing, the baby starts to babble. Babbling begins with repeating a syllable, such as ma-ma, da-da, or ba-ba. When a baby is about 12 months old, we expect her to say her first word for meaning, and to start combining words for meaning at about 18 months.
At about 2 years old, a toddler uses between 50 and 200 words; by 3 years old they have a vocabulary of up to 1,000 words and can speak in sentences. During the early childhood years, children’s vocabulary increases at a rapid pace. This is sometimes referred to as the “vocabulary spurt” and has been claimed to involve an expansion in vocabulary at a rate of 10–20 new words per week. Recent research may indicate that while some children experience these spurts, it is far from universal (as discussed in Ganger & Brent, 2004). It has been estimated that 5-year-olds understand about 6,000 words, speak 2,000 words, and can define words and question their meanings. They can rhyme and name the days of the week. Seven-year-olds speak fluently and use slang and clichés (Stork & Widdowson, 1974).
What accounts for such dramatic language learning by children? Behaviorist B. F. Skinner thought that we learn a language in response to reinforcement or feedback, such as through parental approval or through being understood. For example, when a two-year-old child asks for juice, he might say, “me juice,” to which his mother might respond by giving him a cup of apple juice. Noam Chomsky (1957) criticized Skinner’s theory and proposed that we are all born with an innate capacity to learn the language. Chomsky called this mechanism a language acquisition device (LAD). Who is correct? Both Chomsky and Skinner are right. Remember that we are a product of both nature and nurture. Researchers now believe that language acquisition is partially inborn and partially learned through our interactions with our linguistic environment.