Early Childhood Intervention: Module One – Typical and Atypical Development


What is Development?

The early intervention dictionary defines development as “the lifelong process of growth to maturity through which an individual acquires increasingly complex abilities” (EID, page 111). Every child has a unique developmental path that is influenced both by their biological make-up and by the environment in which they live.

There are some key points to keep in mind when thinking about child development. They are:

    • Child development (CD) exists on a continuum. Some children develop fast and early. Others children the same age develop slower, both in quality and quantity. They reach developmental milestones (Fig. 1) (see full Glossary) later than others, or not at all. If they do reach a certain developmental milestone, they may not master it the same way typically developing children do.
Fig. 1: This image shows examples of baby motor milestones, or skills that develop at certain ages

The development of most children falls in the middle part of the continuum. The children whose development falls on either the lower OR upper parts of the continuum as usually described as developing “atypically”.

  • The development of the children whose development falls on the lower part of the continuum is somewhat slower than that of others their age. The development of children whose development falls on the upper part of the continuum is somewhat faster than that of others their age.
  • Development starts from the inner body and goes to the outer body; for example, children usually develop or gain control over their arms, before their fingers.
  • Development also starts from top to bottom; for example,children cannot have good control over their legs if they do not have good control over their heads.
  • Development is gradual and usually follows a predictable sequence. Children usually learn how to sit before they learn how to walk. They learn how to say individual words, before they speak in sentences.  Every skill a child acquires will later be used as a foundation for more complex skills. Learning how to stack rings in the correct order is a great feat on its own for both the child and the parents. At the same time, this skill that is seen as a game is also paving the way for other skills, for example motor, cognitive and academic skills.
  • Child development experts often divide development into several areas or domains. The most common division (and one that will be used throughout this course) is the following: cognitive development, social/emotional development, communication development, motor development and self-help development
  • Child development experts also understand that all areas of development are important and inter-connected. A child who cannot pronounce certain sounds properly may not be developing typically, when it comes to communication skills. This may have an effect on their social skills which may impact their self-esteem, a major component of emotional development. A child who needs help to eat, and may use a special tool to eat, because of delayed fine-motor skills, may feel anxious about this situation, which may impact their social and emotional skills. It’s important to note that this child may be quite comfortable with the special tool that they use to eat, and what is making them uncomfortable is the reaction that they may see from those around them.

December 3, 2010   No Comments