In the 1940’s, a team of specialists including educators, neurologists, pyschiatrists and so forth, explored the potential to improve function in brain injured children. The result was the famous/infamous Doman-Delacato developmental profile. This profile was an attempt to decide what was necessary and sufficient to achieve “normal” human function. It looked at the inputs to the brain – tactile, auditory and visual, and the corresponding outputs –speech and language, manual function and mobility – from birth level to “normal” human function. Having completed all the steps of this profile, an individual was pronounced “neurologically organized” and hence capable of any normal human activity. If one of these developmental steps was missed, specific stimulation was supplied to complete that step and hence accelerate the individual through that step so that higher levels of function could be achieved.
This was a true work of genius. First, it challenged the premise that the brain was fixed in function and that if an injury occurred or a developmental step missed for whatever reason, be it illness, genetic anomaly, etc., that there was nothing that could be done to improve function. The ability to evaluate an individual that couldn’t talk or move or take standardized tests was an important breakthrough. Plus, by stripping away unnecessary developmental steps, it simplified the evaluation process. This work brought great hope to those that previously had been considered hopeless. It has given rise to many early intervention and “stimulation” programs and the whole sensory integration therapy now claimed as the territory of occupational therapists.
Many have taken this neurodevelopmental work forward. More specific steps of development have been identified, and new ways to provide specific stimulation as well as nutritional and metabolic breakthroughs have enhanced our ability to help individuals function at higher levels than ever before.
Implications for Babies
The great news for parents is that knowing the developmental steps used to evaluate individuals with problems, helps us design the best developmental environment for our babies. Since we can accelerate the learning and function of an individual with problems, we can also accelerate the learning and function of newborns. Why would anyone want to do this? Visions of “pushing” little ones in inappropriate activities come to mind. The fact is that little children love to learn. Very few respect baby’s wonderful ability to learn and to absorb information from his environment. By simply improving the environment of the child so that developmentally appropriate activities are available, little children can be physically and mentally excellent. This will avoid errors that result in learning problems down the road. Plus, we can approach the God-given potential that individuals have. Perhaps we can approach the abilities of our forefathers and send Godly, intelligent and capable children into the future.
This author’s own son was a fully automatized reader at the age of 24 months. He read at college level at the age of seven. By the time he was 12, he could read faster than any individual the author has seen.
The author had a Montessori school in the 1980’s and ALL of the 3 and 4 year olds were readers. This was not a population of bright and superior children. Some children, who couldn’t speak at the age of 2, were reading and speaking by the time they were 3 years old.
All of this is possible using the principles derived from the neurodevelopmental approach. What a refreshing vision in a country that enjoys a 40 to 50% illiteracy rate, despite the millions and billions spent on public education. Read More: By Kay Ness, Certified Neurodevelopmentalist