Early childhood is important and challenging since the first years of a child’s life set the stage for all future growth. In the earliest years of life, especially from pregnancy to age three, babies need nutrition, protection, and stimulation for healthy brain development. In the brain-building process, neural connections are shaped by genes and life experiences. For instance, good nutrition, protection, and stimulation from talk, play, and responsive attention from caregivers have been identified. This combination of nature and nurture establishes the foundation of a child’s future. By interacting with others and the environment, a child can acquire various personalities.
Child’s Brain Development
A mix of factors determines why some children receive the nutrition, protection and stimulation they need, while others are left behind. Lack of nutrition in early childhood leads to stunting, which globally affects nearly one in four children younger than five. Poverty is a common part of the equation in a child’s brain development (Hayes & Fryling, 2019). About 250 million children under five in low- and middle-income countries risk not reaching their development potential because of extreme poverty and stunting. Often, the most disadvantaged children are least likely to have access to the essential ingredients for healthy development. For example, frequent or prolonged exposure to extreme stress, such as neglect and abuse, can trigger biological response systems that create toxic stress, a response that can interfere with brain development. As the child grows, toxic stress can portend physical, mental and behavioral problems in adulthood (Young et al., 2019).. Oversight and inaction have a high price and long-term implications for the health, happiness and earning potential as these children become adults. Despite the need, early childhood programs remain severely underfunded with lackluster execution.
Child’s Brain Development Solutions
Fast-growing brains need family-friendly policies and environments to keep them going. The right interventions at the right time can bolster development, break intergenerational cycles of inequity and provide a fair start in life for every child. For babies born into deprivation, intervening early, when the brain is rapidly developing, can reverse harm and help build resilience. For children with disabilities, it means making sure they have access to the individual, family, and community services available to all children combined with programs that address each child’s specific needs. By expanding existing programs, especially health services, disadvantaged children can seek assistance. In 2015, early childhood development was included in the Sustainable Development Goals, reaffirming its growing status in the global development agenda (Young et al., 2019). This built on earlier efforts which saw early childhood development included in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Erikson’s Psychosocial Development Theory
Erikson believed that personality developed in a series of stages. Erik Erikson was an ego psychologist who developed one of the most popular and influential theories of development. Each stage in Erikson’s theory builds on the preceding stages and paves the way for the following periods of development (Hayes & Fryling, 2019). In each stage, Erikson believed people experience a conflict that serves as a turning point in development. Erikson also believed that a sense of competence motivates behaviors and actions. If the stage is handled well, the person will feel a sense of mastery, which is sometimes referred to as ego strength or ego quality. If the stage is managed poorly, the person will emerge with a sense of inadequacy in that aspect of development.
The first stage of Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development occurs between birth and one year of age and is the most fundamental stage in life. Because an infant is utterly dependent, developing trust is based on the dependability and quality of the child’s caregivers (Hayes & Fryling, 2019). At this point in development, the child is utterly dependent upon adult caregivers for everything they need to survive, including food, love, warmth, safety, and nurturing. If a caregiver fails to provide adequate care and love, the child will come to feel that they cannot trust or depend upon the adults in their life. The second stage of Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development takes place during early childhood and is focused on children developing a greater sense of personal control. The third stage of psychosocial development takes place during the preschool years. At this point in psychosocial development, children begin to assert their power and control over the world through directing play and other social interactions. Children who are successful at this stage feel capable and able to lead others. Those who fail to acquire these skills are left with a sense of guilt, self-doubt, and lack of initiative.
Freud’s Psychosexual Theory
According to the famous psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, children go through a series of psychosexual stages that lead to the development of the adult personality. His theory described how personality developed over the course of childhood. Freud believed that personality developed through a series of childhood stages in which the pleasure-seeking energies of the child become focused on certain erogenous areas. The psychosexual energy, or libido, was described as the driving force behind the behavior (Young, 2019). The psychoanalytic theory suggested that personality is mostly established by the age of five. Early experiences play a large role in personality development and continue to influence behavior later in life. Each stage of development is marked by conflicts that can help build growth or stifle development, depending upon how they are resolved. If these psychosexual stages are completed successfully, a healthy personality is the result. If certain issues are not resolved at the appropriate stage, fixations can occur. A fixation is a persistent focus on an earlier psychosexual stage.
During the oral stage, the infant’s primary source of interaction occurs through the mouth, so the rooting and sucking reflex is especially important. The mouth is vital for eating, and the infant derives pleasure from oral stimulation through gratifying activities such as tasting and sucking (Stoesz, 2020). Because the infant is entirely dependent upon caretakers, the child also develops a sense of trust and comfort through this oral stimulation. The primary conflict at this stage is the weaning process; the child must become less dependent upon caretakers. During the anal stage, Freud believed that the primary focus of the libido was on controlling bladder and bowel movements. The major conflict at this stage is toilet training; the child has to learn to control their bodily needs. Developing this control leads to a sense of accomplishment and independence. According to Stoesz (2020), success at this stage is dependent upon the way in which parents approach toilet training. Parents who utilize praise and rewards for using the toilet at the appropriate time encourage positive outcomes and help children feel capable and productive. Freud suggested that during the phallic stage, the primary focus of the libido is on the genitals. At this age, children also begin to discover the differences between males and females. Freud also believed that boys begin to view their fathers as a rival for the mother’s affections. The Oedipus complex describes these feelings of wanting to possess the mother and the desire to replace the father. However, the child also fears that he will be punished by the father for these feelings, a fear Freud termed castration anxiety. The term Electra complex has been used to describe a similar set of feelings experienced by young girls. Freud, however, believed that girls instead experience penis envy.
Piaget’s Cognitive Development Theory
Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development suggests that children move through four different stages of mental development. His theory focuses not only on understanding how children acquire knowledge but also on understanding the nature of intelligence. Piaget believed that children take an active role in the learning process, acting much like little scientists as they perform experiments, make observations, and learn about the world. As kids interact with the world around them, they continually add new knowledge, build upon existing knowledge, and adapt previously held ideas to accommodate new information.
During this earliest stage of cognitive development, infants and toddlers acquire knowledge through sensory experiences and manipulating objects. The major characteristics and developmental changes in the sensorimotor stage include the infant knowing the world through their movements and sensations. Children also learn about the world through basic actions such as sucking, grasping, looking, and listening. Infants learn that things continue to exist even though they cannot be seen. They are separate beings from the people and objects around them. They realize that their actions can cause things to happen in the world around them. The foundations of language development may have been laid during the previous stage, but it is the emergence of language that is one of the major hallmarks of the preoperational stage of development. Kids learn through pretend play but still struggle with logic and taking the point of view of other people. They also often struggle with understanding the idea of constancy.
Bowlby’s Attachment Theory
Attachment theory is focused on the relationships and bonds between people, particularly long-term relationships, including those between a parent and child and between romantic partners. John Bowlby was the first attachment theorist, describing attachment as a lasting psychological connectedness between human beings (Young et al., 2019). Bowlby was interested in understanding the separation anxiety and distress that children experience when separated from their primary caregivers. Bowlby observed that even feedings did not diminish the anxiety experienced by children when they were separated from their primary caregivers. Bowlby found that attachment was characterized by clear behavioral and motivation patterns. When children are frightened, they will seek proximity from their primary caregiver in order to receive both comfort and care.
Bandura’s Social Learning Theory
Learning is a remarkably complex process that is influenced by a wide variety of factors. As most parents are probably very much aware, observation can play a critical role in determining how and what children learn. Albert Bandura proposed a social learning theory, which suggests that observation and modeling play a primary role in this process. His theory added a social element, arguing that people can learn new information and behaviors by watching other people. There are three core concepts at the heart of social learning theory. First is the idea that people can learn through observation. Next is the notion that internal mental states are an essential part of this process. Finally, this theory recognizes that just because something has been learned, it does not mean that it will result in a change in behavior. Bandura also noted that external, environmental reinforcement was not the only factor to influence learning and behavior.
Common Disabilities in Preschool
Schools across the country have special needs students, who fit into a number of categories. This is essential because of the vastness of special needs issues. A special needs child is often considered disabled in some way because they have mild learning disabilities or profound developmental problems. The umbrella of special needs includes some children that would not be considered in this way. Teachers, administrators, and therapists need to be aware of these children and their specific needs. This is where parental involvement is paramount. Parents are able to speak for the child and relay their individual needs. Schools and school systems are able to provide specific services for special needs students. Special education teachers have long supplied students with expanded learning opportunities. In other cases, children are physically handicapped in some way. These children simply need adequate building codes to accommodate their disabilities. In many of these cases, students are able to perform their work normally. When every necessity is provided, most children can achieve their educational goals. Teachers, administrators, and parents must work together to make sure these issues are addressed.
Individualized Education Program (IEP) for Parents
Parents must be part of the IEP team since they recognize most of the child’s strengths and weaknesses. The IEP is a document that is designed to meet your child’s unique educational needs. It does guarantee the necessary supports and services that are agreed upon and written for your child. The IEP is a document that is designed to meet your child’s unique educational needs. At the least, the IEP must contain these pieces of information; present levels of educational performance, goals, and special education and related services. In Florida, another required component of the IEP for students who are Deaf or hard of hearing is the Communication Plan. The communication plan helps to gather all data to guide the IEP team discussion on supports and services needed in the areas of language, communication, reading, assistive technology, listening and more.
Factors addressed by Parents in the IEP
Special factors to be considered and addressed by parents in the IEP, depending on the child’s needs, include supports and strategies for behavior management. Such an element is considered if a child’s behavior interferes with his or her learning or that of others. Language needs as related to the IEP as outlined in the communication plan. Moreover, communication needs as outlined in the communication plan. Assistive technology devices or services required by the child. Necessary accommodations in the general education classroom. Also, a parent must work collaboratively with the staff responsible for their child’s IEP.
Hayes, L. J., & Fryling, M. J. (2019). Functional and descriptive contextualism. Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science, 14, 119- 126. Web.
Stoesz, D. (2020). Building better social programs: How evidence is transforming public policy. Oxford University Press, USA.
Young, G. (2019). Introducing the 25-Step Neo-eriksonian model. Causality and Development, 271- 281. Web.
Young, S., Simpson, J., Griskevicius, V., Huelsnitz, C., & Fleck, C. (2019) Childhood attachment and adult personality: A life history perspective. Self and Identity,18(1), 22-38, Web.