Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Developmental Norms

Some reflections about language development if that's okay?

A child’s development is marked by different levels of play.   In the very early stages of play a little one will find absolute joy in aimlessly scattering the toys (and food) in front of them only a few months later to become fascinated with putting these items into--or in my children’s cases mostly taking out of--containers.  These progressions continue throughout toddler-hood, eventually culminating into imaginative play which further expands as a child’s language skills develop.  It’s an absolutely fascinating process to watch unfold in children-similar and yet unique in each little body.   Oftentimes my job involves reassuring parents that these seemingly strange types of play are in fact important stages of learning and helping them see the awe in these little milestones.  Sometimes, however, a child can get ‘stuck’ in a developmental stage and a 2 ½ year old will still be quite focused on sorting and lining up toys.  While this was an appropriate skill ten months prior, the child now disregards his or her world around them in order to focus on this type of play.  This calls for intervention and the need to ‘teach’ a child how to play appropriately in an effort to get back on track with their development so that all of the other skills can fall into place as they should. 

Poppy is in the sorting and grouping stage of play.  With the fervency of a worker bee, I watch as she moves and organizes her toys from one pile to another, redirecting briefly to distribute items to family members, then collect them back and reorganize them on the floor.  She will imitate different types of play: feeding her baby dolls as she has seen Ella do and driving tractors along the floor with her brother, but given a bucket of toys to explore on her own, this is how she will spend most of her time playing.

As I watch her, I wonder how my own day to day routines would look through the eyes of an observer.  The repetitiveness of my daily activities.  My sense of urgency about what is in the big sense quite insignificant.  Are there any developmental norms that continue into adult-hood?   If an expert in such things were to observe my daily routines and behaviors, would they reassure me afterwards,  “Oh, this is a completely appropriate behavior at your stage of development.  Over the next several years, you will begin to prioritize what is actually important and develop more patience for the people that you love.”  Or, perhaps they would comment, “Some of the behaviors observed are a little…what we call ‘atypical’, meaning you are showing some skills that are appropriate, but others that we would have anticipated you would have moved past by now.“   I suspect it’s easier to get ‘stuck’ in a developmental stage as an adult, but that's likely because I am an adult and find adulting to be quite difficult at times.

Earlier this year, I began to focus on Scripture memorization.  This has shown to be a real in-your-face way to become aware of cognitive decline.  Not that memorization has ever been a strength of mine, but taking six months to memorize two verses is a bit ridiculous.  I reassure myself with the reminder that this is my children's fault.  But, I keep on and fiiinally, the words chisel in there to stay.  Nestled deep into the sulci of my brain where they can absorb and do their work, the verses rise to my consciousness--my own little Intervention team--helping me get back on track when I become too focused on this world around me and begin to disregard the things of the Spirit.

Within the birth to three population, 'therapy' looks more like play-a not infrequent complaint among parents.
 But, blowing bubbles catches a toddler's visual attention, guiding little eyes to mimic an adult's smile and mouth movements for speech.  And singing 5 Little Monkeys (my jam!) connects the right hemisphere of the brain with the left, helping a child stimulate the neural circuits for speech.  Lots and lots going on under the surface.  Similarly, memorizing a few words many not seem like an important use of very limited time.  But, to know God's purpose for me in everyday circumstances and to hear His word rise up and answer my questions as I ask them has been an invaluable tool.  And that's the best sort of therapy I’ve found.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.  For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.  Romans 8: 5-6


  1. Insightful and inspiring, not to mention just plain interesting. Find a devotional journal or magazine and submit this for publication!

    1. Wow...thanks Carrie, that's so nice of you to say!