Quotes from homes with toddlers…
“Let’s get out of that cabinet.”
“Put that down!”
A child’s internal drive to explore should be obvious and dominate most of his waking moments throughout childhood, but especially in the first three years of a child’s life. New discoveries create new neural pathways in the brain. Educational and medical experts refer to this as cognitive development.
When I explain cognitive development to families I’m working with, I say that cognitive skills include how a child thinks, learns, remembers, and pays attention. Therapists may add terms like “processing” and “planning.” Parents may think about these brain-based skills as IQ or “how smart a child is.”
Reacting to environmental events is the cornerstone for developing cognition.
This skill comes first and sets the stage for all other skills a child acquires, including language development. A child who is not alert and who is unresponsive is not developmentally ready to learn to understand and use words. More realistic wording for that sentence is that a child who does not respond to incoming information is “not even close” to being developmentally ready to learn language.
If you’re a therapist, that’s not news to you. However, I’ve worked with a few families with children with severe neurological disabilities or rare genetic conditions who did not understand the impact that those significant diagnoses have on language development. Even though they knew to expect physical disabilities and other developmental lags, some parents (and grandparents) had not yet faced the possibility that their child would have difficulty learning to understand words and to talk.
Before we can begin to address the language piece, we need to be sure a child has ample opportunities to see, hear, touch, hold, and manipulate dozens of different objects and participate in hundreds of experiences within his environment everyday.
If you’re struggling with ideas for how to accomplish this, or if you are working with a child with a significant developmental delay, I have ideas for you in Let’s Talk About Talking. You’ll read the 11 skills all kids master before they begin to talk and understand the connection between things like exploration and language. Get your copy today!