There are many principles of development relating to a child’s brain that have been explored and debated throughout the decades. Some principles debated were, how much of our cognitive intelligence was determined by genes and how much is environmental, and effects of toxic stress in the child’s brain development process. I will be exploring these principles and theories in greater detail.
During the nine months in the womb, you’re uploaded with a “genetic blueprint.” (Bendefy, 2012) According to google our genetic blueprint is made up of half our mother’s and half our father’s genetic information. (google) Within this blueprint there is a pattern telling the brain and body how it will develop, an internal map, you could say. The questions are, how much of our cognitive intelligence is determined by genes and how much is environment?
Leaving us to ponder the question of intelligence “Genes account for between approximately 50% and 70% of the variation in cognition at the population level.” (Tucker-Drob, Briley, Harden, 2013) These fluctuations will take place due to favorable or unfavorable socioeconomic conditions. There are numerous studies and books devoted to the concept of raising your child’s intelligence. The list of concepts is long, ranging from consuming more iodine in your diet while pregnant to playing brain games with your child.
In the age we live in, parents strive to make sure they take the necessary steps needed to ensure their child will be at the peak functioning level in relation to others around them. Parents need to begin looking at the environment, taking an account of their surroundings. Sometimes, the environment can’t be changed, so you must change the experiences in that environment which will make for a positive experience.
Hense, the reason early childhood education is so important to our young child. Give children the opportunity to attend a high-quality program with high-quality experiences by giving them the chance to thrive. Creating the favorable experiences needed to ensure the proper wires in children’s brain are strengthened. Imagine for a moment a teeter-totter, on the left you have positive experiences, in the middle, you have your foundation, and, on the right, you have negative experiences. If you have ever been on a teeter totter I am sure you know, the one who is the lightest gets stuck up in the air with nowhere to go.
So that would mean, the more positive experiences you have the more you can build a strong base. Causing those negative experiences to be stuck in a limbo state, not being reinforced therefor dying away eventually becoming susceptible to pruning by the brain’s itself. “Pruning “is the brain’s way of removing the trash or deleting and unnecessary file. (2011) Positive experiences begin to form connections and circuits in the brain that allow the travel of information. The more experiences the more circuits. The more strong and positive circuits the higher the intelligence.
Children’s brains are resilient and have been handling stress since the conception period.
A principle that has been examined closely, are the effects of stress on the brain. Children can experience two types of stress: stress and toxic stress. The concept of stress is nothing new, whereas toxic stress is a new concept to some individuals. Stress according to google is a “state of the mental or emotional drain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.” (google)
Whereas google defines toxic stress as “a term used by psychologists and developmental neurobiologists to describe the kinds of experiences, particularly in childhood, that can affect brain architecture and brain chemistry. They typically are experiences that are bad for an individual during development such as abuse.” (google) During a child’s life, they will experience both types of stress. The “stress” is a good stress, which allows the brain to grow in a good way. An example could be going to a new school or “study for a test” (2013)
In this crucial period of development the child’s brain, you must also think about the type of operating system you will use to communicate with the child. In the event, the system is not compatible with the child’s cognitive capacity then a shutdown or this case meltdown will occur. A meltdown on the child’s part is an indicator that stress is present, or there has been a traffic jam in their brain and they are receiving mixed signals. On the other hand, children can have “toxic stress” which can be helpful to them in an emergency. This can be crucial to the child’s survival by providing the fight or flight emotion in the body, giving instruction on how to act.
Toxic stress becomes a problem when, the body is in a constant state of toxic stress from abuse, neglect or hardships, it begins to raise the cortisol levels. Consistently high cortisol levels are detrimental to brain cells, killing them. During the child’s peak years of brain development, we must be so careful to strengthen their brain through positive experiences, allowing them to build more complex circuits on top of the already strong base. Ensuring them the chances for a more successful life.
Over the years we have had many theories, about the best way to deal with children. Piaget’s theory explains we must climb the four stages of cognitive development. Each stage is like a building block allowing us to get to the next stage. Another theory deals how we process the daily information we experience. Information processing theory, which is becoming more prevalent in the medical community. In the following paragraphs, I will delve into how these theories work.
Piaget’s theory has four stages that you must complete, one at a time. The first stage is the sensorimotor stage which happens in the ages between birth and two years old. During the first stage, the child will interact with objects in their surroundings. Feeling objects with their hands and using their mouths to explore the environment. The second stage is the pre-operational stage has two parts. The first part is preconceptual which happens between ages two to four, and the intuitive stage is between ages four to seven years old.
Once into the second preconceptual stage, the child struggles to concentrate on more than two things. The second intuitive stage the child will begin to start exploring things through trial and error. During both parts the child begins to think directed by perception, engaging in pretend to play with the use of rich language. Children at this stage learn through play, allowing them to explore the environment on their own terms will be beneficial. The third stage is concrete operations which happen from ages seven to twelve years of age.
This stage is where logical reasoning will be used when encountering objects that can be physically seen or touched. The fourth stage of the theory is formal operations taking place between 12 years and upwards. To master this stage, one must become experienced in thinking logically and understanding abstract ideas. Individuals may be in this stage for many years before they will be able to master this concept.
Information processing theory is widely known by many doctors, and to parents as more and more children are affected by sensory processing disorder. When a child sensitivity with the senses with hearing, taste, and touch. Mostly, children will be affected by sensory processing, but adults can have issues just the same. This disorder is most common to children on the spectrum of Autism. A child may experience loud noises their response would be covering their ears.
Other children may experience fabric sensitives. This could be different for each child; one child may be sensitive to certain nylon, jeans, or the touch of a backpack. They describe a scratchy sound or a feeling, in response, their body may develop goosebumps and hair standing up on the arm. Meltdowns in these children are common, their brains just can’t process all the information coming in, therefore understand the problem and produce a solution. (SPD)
We need to assist our sensory processing parents on their journey with their children and helping the child to overcome some of their sensitivities.