Monday, October 12, 2009

Ages & Stages of Development

We are heading into the last months of five years of this column. I reviewed the topics we have covered--covered in many ways more than once! I would love to learn what readers would like to hear more about. Please call or email to offer your suggestions. Now as I look back I decided to bring back a topic that was important to me in my career--ages and stages in development.

There was a song by Mr. Rogers often used on his program, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood that comes to mind. I cannot remember all the words, however it goes something like this: “Everything grows together, because we’re all one piece. Your ears grow as your fingers grow as your arms grow because we’re all one piece.”

In these next few weeks we will explore stages of development from birth through age five. You may have seen these stages listed and outlined at the doctor’s office or your child’s day care or preschool. One of my favorite charts was compliled by Dr. Harry Ireton from Minnesota. I met Dr. Ireton at a conference on young children. Like Mr. Rogers he is a kind, easy to talk to gentleman whose work gave us ways of looking at the stages of child development. This helped us to screen for problems in children.

Using the Ireton’s‘Developmental Map’ we will discuss how growth in each area of development (motor, language, social, cognition) are inter-related, how ‘everything grows together’. We will add another component to the map, how our parenting is intertwined with everything growing together.

Let’s start at birth. Our newborn comes to us with many reflexes: startling, rooting, and sucking. Socially, the child will quiet and calm when it is fed, wiggle and kick when happy, stare intently at faces, and communicate need by crying. Within a few months, the crying may stop as the infant sees the mother and begins to anticipate something nice happening. This is related to improvements in vision and also to learning a pattern: first mom comes and then my tummy is full. Communication between mother and infant begins.

Next week we will look at development in the first 6 months and what parents do to support their baby’s growth.

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