We are used to saying that children grow “upwards”, but is this an accurate expression, and does the child really grow “upwards”?
When we try to see the newborn as it really is and not as we imagine it, we see it in its mother’s arms, or in the cradle, or in its little bed, unlike newborn baby animals, which get up and stumble as soon as they are born. Calves and foals literally grow “upwards”.
The newborn is helpless and absolutely dependent on its mother. The only coordinated reflex available to it is that of sucking. However, within the first days and weeks, control begins to extend to the seat of movement, a real sea where the newborn seems to be adrift. The child’s motor control grows “downwards”, through his body and later through language and thought. The first motor control is observed a few days after birth, not later than a few weeks. The child learns to coordinate eye movements and to follow a moving object. In the second month his head and face begin to follow the direction of his gaze and to turn his head towards a light or sound. In the following months, the child’s voluntary control descends to the shoulders and arms. In the second half of the year, he begins to sit up, crawl, creep in a sitting position and by the ninth or tenth month, he feels the desire to stand up. Motor control has moved from the child’s eyes to the feet through the whole body.
There are two very controlled movements of the first year of life: the infant smile that appears in the sixth week and the “infant babble” that appears at the same time as the prehensile activity, in the second half of the year. This babbling is a new facet of motor control that is common to all children. It is an archetypal form of “language” like the language of the Tower of Babel that unites all humanity in early childhood.
Throughout the second year there is a second form of “descent” through language, from the cognitive quality of nouns to the emotional quality of adjectives to the active quality of verbs. In the course of the third year there is a more subtle descent, from the ability to think with the help of memory, the inquiring capacity of the imagination to the experience of his own ego.
It is essential for us to understand the development of children’s growth, their language and how they integrate into their environment in order to better understand children in need of special care. If you would like to go more deeply into these topics, you can find help in the book Children in need of special care by Thomas J. Weihs, R. Steiner Publishers. This author points out that children with special needs can best be helped by changing our understanding of them and our way of being.
This aricle was published with permission form Notas Paliativas www.paliativossinfronteras.org.