How to assist children with healthy development

This is the powerpoint lecture of Module 5.
The video Change the First Five Years and You Change Everything was assigned this week. If
you have not done so already, you may wish to watch it before listening to (or reading) the
powerpoint lecture.
I believe this poignant video captures the essence of the importance of early intervention
to assist children with healthy development. So it is the perfect bridge between our module
on prevention and child development. Think of these children presented in the video
throughout this lecture on child development.
Throughout this course we are using material from the PreService Training of the Florida
Department of Children and Families. The module 3 that you read on Child Development is
part of these preservice training. I am incorporating the slides from the preservice
training into my PowerPoint lectures. When you see slides that have the Florida
Department of Children and Families logos on them, you will know it is from the pre
service training.
How do we define child development without just saying it is the development of children?
Lets make it simple and look at Wikipedia.
According to Wikipedia Child development entails the biological, psychological and
emotional changes that occur in human beings between birth and the end of adolescence,
as the individual progresses from dependency to increasing autonomy. It is a continuous
process with a predictable sequence, yet having a unique course for every child.
When we are talking about the maturation process, we are really talking about normal development. It is
important to understand that normal means that timeframes and skills are what is typical or average for a
specific age or age range. For example, we would say that children learn to walk unassisted on average
between the ages of 1114 months. Does this mean some normal children walk earlier than 11 months and
after 14 months? Of course! Remember that the term normal or typical has boundaries. If a child is
reaching the upper boundary of that range or exceeds it, then it is imperative to ask, Why? Consider an 18
monthold who is not walking. There could be a medical reason why he or she is not walking, or it could be an
abuse or neglect issue, or some other reason. It is up to us to know what the norm is so that we can make
educated or informed decisions on the safety and wellbeing of that child.
It is also important to remember that development is sequential. Babies dont talk before they babble; young
children dont run before they walk. Children typically have to master each skill before they move on to the
next one.
It is important for you to know that normal child development is based on the relationships that children
have with those in their family system. Children are social creatures and do not develop in a vacuum. It is the
quality of relationships, including nurturing, protecting and remaining attached, that determines a childs
developmental trajectory. We typically think about developmental relationships as being with
parents/caregivers, but this changes as we grow into childhood and adolescence. The span of the
relationships a child has widens exponentially, and will include siblings, relatives, peers, and community
The childs development is uniquely dependent on the relationship he or she has with his or her environment.
For example, an infant who has been environmentally deprived experiencing little sensory interaction
will not meet developmental milestones unless there are other protective factors in place to overcome
negative environmental influences.
When discussing child development it is important to remember there are two critical window. The first
occurs in early childhood and the second during adolescence. One final point that I want to stress is that child
development is intrinsically linked to brain development. You will see this as a theme throughout the lecture.
There is a wealth of research that has examined the importance of early childhood
development. The video hyperlinked in this slide and listed in the optional videos highlight
some of what we know through science about early development.
Hopefully the connection to why child welfare professionals need to understand child
development is clear to you. However, I want to make sure that you understand the
need to know about child development so that they understand
why young children are the most vulnerable to maltreatment. Additionally, the knowledge
about child development is central to assessment. Child welfare professionals need to be
able to assess child functioning including the impact of maltreatment and this is largely
based on childrens development. With a thorough knowledge of child development, child
welfare professionals can identify problems early and make appropriate referrals for
families. Child welfare professionals also can use their knowledge about child development
to educate parents about their children through dispelling myths about young children. For
example, a case manager can tell a parent that the 18 month old child throwing things from
a high chair repeatedly is not trying to be ornery or annoying, rather it is a completely
developmentally appropriate behavior. When child welfare professionals possess strong
knowledge about child development it assists with ensuring they do not inadvertently
cause further harm and allows them to make better decisions for individual children.
FSUCPEIP Casey Training 7
Day 1 Morning The Science & Impact of
What is normal for children developmentally is in part culturally bound. In the United
States we have different understandings about when children should be doing certain
things. Think about what you believe is normal for children in the United States at different
ages. For example, in the US, we do not think it is normal for children to have alcoholin
fact we have laws that prohibit anyone under the age of 21 from consuming alcohol. Yet, in
other countries, children are served a glass of wine for family dinners.
The chronological age of a child is a primary factor of child development. However, it is not
the only one. There are other factors including the environment, genetics, nutrition, and
Before we talk about the childs developmental stages after birth, we must take
an important, though brief, look at the childs prenatal development the
childs development before birth. If we want to understand the child, we have
to understand the relationship between prenatal development and postbirth
development. The three factors that can have significant impact on prenatal
development are: genetics, teratogens, and environmental factors.
To understand the impact of genetics, recall your biology classes where you
learned about reproduction. Prenatal development is influenced by the genetic
make up of the parents.
Teratogens are any agent or factor that causes malformation of an embryo.
Teratogens include things like viruses, drugs, chemicals, stressors, smoking, and
malnutrition that can impair prenatal development and lead to birth defects or
even child death.
Environmental factors, the third factor for prenatal development includes things
such domestic violence, parent/caregiver mental illness, poverty and/or poor
nutrition during pregnancy.
All three of these prenatal factors can impact the childs development after he
or she is born, and they can be contributing factors to developmental delays or
issues in each of the developmental domains, and with attachment.
Later in the semester, we will spend an entire module examining neglect. When we
examine neglect in depth, we will focus on how neglect negatively impacts child
development. The preservice training material highlights the video depicted in this slide
examining the science of early childhood development. There is a hyperlink to the video in
the powerpoint and it is also included as an optional video within the module overview.
Before you started this lecture, you should have watched the brief video on serve and
return that is hyperlinked here and listed in the video section of the module.
Serve and return between children and their parents helps children learn. In serve and
return, the child serves a bit for attention and the parent returns. This becomes
increasingly complex and more specific over time. Serve and return is central for childrens
brain development.
In this slide there are hyperlinks to the two required videos within the module overview.
Hopefully you wanted the videos before. Each video shows classic experiments that
demonstrate serve and return between children and their parents. This process is
important not only from an attachment perspective, but also for brain development.
Within each one of the developmental stages, there are four distinct domains: Physical,
Cognitive, Social and Emotional. Next we will look at these domains in depth.
Physical development refers to the childs physiological or actual body growth.
Physiological, or physical, development includes such things as the childs
height, weight, body hair, breasts, hips, etc. and development of their body
structure, which includes muscles, bones, and organ systems. The development
of coordination, strength and muscle tone progresses from head to toe and
from the center of the body to hands and feet. Babies learn to roll over, sit,
crawl, cruise and finally to walk. Motor skills lead to mobility and the
independence needed to explore their world.
Motor delays may include difficulties in crawling, walking or using fine motor
skills, such as holding a pencil. Some motor delays may be the result of neglect,
being left in cribs for extended periods without stimulation or adjustments or a
lack of experience with parenting. Motor delays may indicate a parents or
childs fear of exploration with attempts to stay close by for safety. Motor delays
may manifest as a child continuing to crawl even though there is no medical or
other indication that the child does not have the ability to walk. This skill
regression is a key indicator of possible trauma. Physical abuse may result in
motor delays (broken arms, legs, etc.).
In the early years of the childs physical development, it is important that you
know growth is rapid, but it can also be deceiving. For example, right after birth,
newborns will lose 510% of their birth weight. Then, around 2 weeksold, a
child experiences rapid physical growth. Between 46 months of age, the baby actually
doubles its birth weight. However, between the ages of 1 and 3, a toddler will only gain
around 5 pounds and then 5 pounds each year until the age of five. Growth and
development occur at a rapid rate during the first three years of life.
Some key points to remember about physical development is that development is dependent
upon the childs physical health. Physical development also benefits from adequate
stimulation and opportunity for physical activity. Good physical, nutritional, auditory, visual
and dental health are fundamental necessities for child wellness.
Cognitive Development refers to the development of the childs thinking, judgment and
This includes what a child knows, understands and remembers. Most importantly, cognitive
or intellectual development is the domain that deals with the way a child processes
information, solves problems, and thinks abstractly.
Abuse and neglect impair the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that controls executive
functioning, which includes the ability to focus, plan, organize, remember details, manage
time and attention, initiate and complete complex tasks, and persevere through challenges.
As a result, children in stressful environments find it harder to concentrate, sit still, follow
directions, or rebound from disappointment. Often, these manifestations of trauma are
misinterpreted as bad behavior or medicated as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
(ADHD). Fortunately, executive functioning skills can be learned.
Cognitive delays are all too common in maltreated children, not because they are born less
smart, but because of exposure to toxic stress and trauma. As you heard in the video, stress
impacts the brains executive functioning and many abilities critical for academic success.
Maltreated children commonly experience language delays because maltreating parents
may spend less time talking with their children. Children may not talk as a response to
trauma or violence. Behavior problems are common in children who lack communication
skills and are frustrated when needs are not met.
Although the social and emotional domains are often presented as separate domains, they
actually go handinhand and we will discuss them as one domain. The socialemotional
domains are the domains that encompass interactions with family members and peers.
Although they are often overlooked, the socialemotional domains are by far one of the
most telling and developmentally influential domains in child welfare.
Trust and emotional security provide the basis for all relationships. Trust is developed as
babies needs are met. When children feel emotionally secure, they are eager to explore
their world and establish relationships and attachments.
This slide depicts the developmental stages of childhood ranging from infants and toddlers
through school aged children and onto adolescents. Within the reading for this week there
are detailed guidelines about all of the specific developmental periods. For this class you
are not required to memorize and recite the different physical, cognitive, social, and
emotional domains of development. However, I want you to know how you can access the
information for all developmental stages.
Within the reading for this week, there are multiple pages outlining the child development
stages in a matrix. I have selected one of them here pulled from page 31 of module to
highlight as an example. Within these matrix the various milestones are outlined in terms
of physical, socioemotional and cognitive development. In addition there is a column
about indicators of developmental concern, so these are the things that should let us know
that the child is experiencing developmental delays. Remember developmental delays
happen for many reasons and we cannot assume that a child who has several indicators of
developmental concern is experiencing maltreatment. This table also includes positive
parenting characteristics across all developmental stages. Information provided in the
matrices can be used by child welfare professionals during assessments for child
maltreatment as well as determining ongoing service plans.
This concludes the lecture for this module.

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