School-aged children are characterized by increased conversational and analytical skills and the capacity to understand the concept of cause and effect. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (2018), they feel a sense of fulfillment when acquiring new skills. However, at this age, children lack the knowledge about bodies and have limited capacity to evaluate the serious consequences of a particular illness or injury (Jarvis, 2018). Therefore, it is crucial to find the proper words to explain to school-aged children how their bodies function. The enhanced understanding of the body’s functioning helps the children in this age category be better involved in their own care.
Physical Assessment among School-Aged Children
The growth of the school-aged child is generally considered a steady process, given that most children typically gain weight and height. The children’s physical appearance between the ages of 5 and 12 years old is comparatively slimmer than against the younger children. As described by Forbes & Watt (2015), this can be explained by the particular feature of the older child’s body, including “proportionally longer legs, diminishing body fat, and a lower center of gravity” (p. 22). Due to the increased mobility of the child, the muscles become stronger and more developed; however, they are not entirely mature. The neuromuscular control of school-aged children obtains a more advanced function.
The Typical Developmental Stages of Children
The developmental milestone of the school-aged children are described based on the physical assessment of the 8-year-old child:
- The school-aged children gain between 4 and 7 pounds every year and experience significant increases in height (Chiocca, 2019);
- The growth spurts and slow growth. Due to the growth spurt, the children also require an increase in calorie intake (Chiocca, 2019). The accelerated growth spurts might enhance the disproportioned body parts of the child, which typically normalizes until the end of puberty;
- The critical improvements in children’s motor skills that involve better control, coordination, and balance;
- The muscles masses of the school-aged children begin to change and make their bodies stronger.
Jean Piaget’s developmental theory is based on the particular stages of cognitive development in the growing child, where each stage incorporates new approaches of thinking and behaving. Piaget stated that the way of thinking of the child evolves gradually from the simple reflex behavior into “complex, logical, and abstract thought” (Forbes & Watt, 2015, p. 16). Piaget defines the school-age period as the concrete operation stage, which allows applying more complex objects to enhance the child’s logical thinking. Such a theoretical approach can contribute to the physical assessment of the child by providing a valuable framework to better understand the development of school-aged children’s thoughts.
The described key features of the school-aged children and related critical changes in their bodies help them engage in complex physical tasks, which require strength, agility, and coordination. To modify the assessment techniques to match the age and developmental stage of the child, it is crucial to understand that school-aged children have a fear of being separated from their parents, friends, and caregivers. It is a complicated task for children of this age to talk about and express their feelings. Furthermore, school-aged children become more mobile and independent and, therefore, they are more prone to take a risk. As such, it is crucial to explain the procedures to the children, indicate questions, provide privacy, and carry out the full physical assessment of the child.
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) (2018). PEPP United Kingdom: Pediatric education for prehospital professionals (PEPP). Jones & Bartlett Learning.
Chiocca, E. M. (2019). Advanced pediatric assessment (3rd ed.). Springer Publishing Company.
Forbes, H., & Watt, E. (2015). Jarvis’s physical examination and health assessment. Elsevier Health Sciences.
Jarvis, C. (2018). Physical examination and health assessment. Elsevier Health Sciences.