Characteristics of typically developing children

Curriculum and Development

Learning Objectives

After reading this chapter, you should be able to:

1. Describe the general characteristics of typically developing children.

2. Explain what special needs are and some of the ways in which teachers make adapta- tions to meet those needs.

3. Describe, from social and cognitive perspectives, how childrens play develops over time.

4. Explain how play is integral to important elements of curriculum.

5. Match developmental characteristics of different age groups with appropriate curricu- lum considerations.

4 Pretest 1. Typically developing children attain

developmental milestones in approximately the same sequence and time frame. T/F

2. Children with developmental needs are best served in special education classrooms. T/F

3. Play is enjoyable for children but not connected to cognitive or social development. T/F

4. Time for play should be included in the daily schedule to give children a break from curriculum activities. T/F

5. Infant caregivers can use routines such as diapering and feeding to promote language and motor development. T/F

Answers can be found at end of the chapter.

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Teaching from a Developmental Perspective Chapter 4

You have conducted home visits with the seventeen preschool children in your class. Their ages at the time of your visits ranged from 3 years, 11 months, to 4 years, 10 months. You read a story as one part of each visit, either from a book the child chose from those they had at home or one they chose from the three that you brought with you. After your visit, you made notes on each child, including these two entries:

1. Maria (age 4 years, 7 months) sat next to me on the sofa and introduced me to her stuffed monkey, which she used as a puppet to ask questions and respond to mine. She eagerly selected Curious George, telling me it was one of her favorite stories. She pointed out the title on the books cover, and the letters C and G. As I read the story, Maria pointed to and identified details in the illustrations, laughed at several points, predicted what would happen next, and turned the pages carefully each time I paused. After we finished, she clapped her hands and asked me to read the book again.

2. Marissa (age 3 years, 11 months) sat on her mothers lap next to me on the sofa. When I asked if she had a book that she wanted me to read, she shook her head. When I asked if she would choose a book I had brought, she pointed to Eating the Alphabet (Ehlert, 1989). While I read, she was quiet and sucked her thumb with one hand and played with her mothers hair with the other. She was very attentive, looking back and forth

between my face and the book, but did not volunteer ques- tions or comments. When we finished, I asked if she liked the book and she nodded her head.

Although these anecdotal entries do not constitute a formal assessment, it should be clear that while both children are interested in age-appropriate books, you would have to pro- vide different types of access to literacy curriculum activities for each child. Maria clearly appears enthusiastic about shar- ing what she already knows about books, stories that have characters and a plot, and letters (print). Marissa seems very interested in books, perhaps letters and the alphabet, but, given her demeanor, it might be difficult to tell what she knows about them and how likely it is that she will engage in reading activities independently.

In this chapter, we will consider the relationship between development and curriculum; as you read, think about what these anecdotes reveal about teaching all areas of the curricu- lum from a developmental perspective. This chapter focuses on how developmental knowledgeboth general and indi- vidualabout infants, toddlers, preschoolers, kindergar- teners, and primary-aged children should guide and inform

decisions that teachers make about curriculum. We also consider the reciprocal and integrated relationship between play and development and the important role of play in the curriculum.

4.1 Teaching from a Developmental Perspective One of the primary goals of teachers as decision makers is to make sure that the curriculum opens the door to learning for all children in the group or class (Hull, Goldhaber, & Capone, 2002). Excellent teachers evaluate and adapt curriculum to respond to the interests, abilities,

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Teachers notes from home visits can provide information that will help to adapt curriculum to the individual needs and interests of children.

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Teaching from a Developmental Perspective Chapter 4

needs, and culture of every child. As explained in Chapter 1, developmentally appropriate curriculum for young children changes as their particular characteristics change over time.

Universal Expectations vs. Individual Variations

You already know that developmentally appropriate practice (DAP) addresses both the gen- eral characteristics of groups of children as well as unique variations from child to child at any particular point in time. A good curriculum will be one that is flexible enough to allow the teacher to use insights and observations of children to plan, adapt, and implement activi- ties. The scenario from the opening vignette illustrates the need for a flexible curriculum. It is also advisable to describe and communicate curriculum decisions and adaptations in terms of the elements of DAP, so that families and administrators can understand the rationale for your choices (Copple & Bredekamp, 2009; Gestwicki, 2011). To do this, teachers need to be awareof:

What is generally accepted as typical in each of the three major domains of develop- ment (physical, affective, cognitive)

What constitutes normal individual variations in both development and learning style

The influence of culture and family on development

How developmental delays and other special needs affect childrens learning and behavior patterns

Further, we know that developmental researchers describe, from differing theoretical perspec- tives, how children grow and learn. Teachers need to be able to recognize when a curriculum is written or described from a particular point of view. The DAP position statement describes growth and development generally from a constructivist perspective (Copple & Bredekamp, 2009). However, a behaviorist orientation emphasizing sequential learning and positive rein- forcement for desired responses or actions can be seen in early childhood curricula as well, particularly those that focus on direct instruction. For example, teachers provide children with exploratory experiences (constructivist), by using materials like blocks, to promote acquisition of fundamental concepts about size, shape, balance, symmetry, and so on. But they also use rhymes, songs, and stories to provide intentional practice and positive reinforcement for rote counting (behaviorist).

The constructivist influence can be seen in advocacy for standards and curriculum that are goal-oriented, while curriculum scope and sequence still display activities for development of discrete skills on a time line (Clements & Sarama, 2004). Teachers use their knowledge of diverse developmental perspectives to make decisions about curriculum that match what they observe about how individual children learn best.

We expect to see childrens development follow a general trajectory over time as they master increasingly complex skills and gradually move from concrete to abstract thinking. For exam- ple, a 2-year-old will learn to put on his shoes, but by the time he is 4 or 5 he will also be able to tie them. That same 2-year-old may be able to name and differentiate between a horse and tiger, but 2 years later he will also be able to describe how they are similar and different.

Within this predictable sequence, curriculum must account for and support uneven develop- ment from child to child and differences in personality, interests, and dispositions (Copple & Bredekamp, 2009; Gestwicki, 2011). Some children are more physically active or assertive; others are passive or submissive; some children are very verbal; others are introspective and

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Teaching from a Developmental Perspective Chapter 4

quiet. One child may hone fine motor skills primarily through the use of manipulative materi- als like Legos or puzzles; another might want to spend a lot of time cutting paper, painting, and drawing. And during any general age period, a child may seem to be surging ahead in one area of development seemingly to the exclusion of others. It all evens out eventually, but a one-size-fits all approach to curriculum for young children is not considered developmen- tally appropriate at any time.

Typically Developing Children

Typically developing children are those considered to be representa- tive of most children in a population. The developmental progression of typically developing children is often expressed in terms of norms, bench- marks, or milestones. Growth and development are usually described with respect to specific domains, such as physical, social/emotional, cognitive, or creative.

However, researchers and curriculum specialists also emphasize that growth and learning occur as an integrated process across multiple domains (Alvior, 2014; Gestwicki, 2011; Hull,

Goldhaber, & Capone, 2002; Levine & Munsch, 2011). For example, as Maria interacts with the story of Curious George in our opening vignette, she is using cognitive skills and language in different ways and demonstrating symbolic representation in her use of the monkey as a puppet and by pointing out letters. She uses fine motor skills to point, clap, and manipulate her puppet. Her attentiveness and engagement indicate emotional connection with the char- acters in the story and emerging understanding about the social roles of reader and listener.

A brief summary of typical developmental progression follows. Developmental progression will be discussed with respect to curriculum in greater detail later in the chapter.

Physical Development From infancy throughout the early childhood period (birth to age 8), physical development typically progresses from the head downward (cephalocaudal) and from the center of the body outward (proximodistal). As the body lengthens and the head assumes a smaller propor- tion of the rest of the body, the childs center of gravity gradually rises. Gross motor control progresses from nonlocomotive movements to eventual walking, running, hopping, skipping, and so forth. Control of fine motor processes involves everything from eye tracking to the highly controlled manual dexterity needed to draw, write, or play a musical instrument. The brain grows at a faster pace during early childhood than at any other time across the life span (Charlesworth, 2004; Levine & Munsch, 2011).

Affective Development Affective development describes how children behave and feel. Social competence, emo- tional character, and personality develop in highly individualized patterns influenced by the

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Children in any particular age group exhibit generally similar developmental characteristics, but with many variations for which teachers must adapt.

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Teaching from a Developmental Perspective Chapter 4

interplay of nature (biological processes) and nurture (environmental influences). Over time and as children acquire language, their affective responses become less outwardly focused on physical needs (e.g., crying when hungry, tired, or wet)and more internally focusedon emotional motivations such as pride, guilt, and wanting to belong. An ethic of sharing, caring, and moral reasoning develops as children gradually gain the ability to consider multiple per- spectives and adapt to various forms of authority. Theories from many branches of psychology inform our understanding about the development of ego, personality, identity, empathy, and morality in young children (Charlesworth, 2004; Levine & Munsch, 2011) and lead to the dif- ferent approaches that teachers use to guide children to function in socially acceptable ways.

Cognitive Development Our views of intelligence, thinking, and understanding of neurological functions are changing as a result of significant research conducted over recent decades. We know that the brain receives, processes, and stores different kinds of information in specific locations. Neural con- nections, the development of hard and soft wiring, and brain density increase dramatically from the neonatal period throughout early childhood. Childrens thinking skills shift in focus from processing stimuli through their senses, to learning how to pay attention, understand and process information, and construct memory (Hull, Goldhaber, & Capone, 2002). Children learn to speak and develop language in predictable patterns that culminate in the ability to read, write, speak, and comprehend the nuances of language. Bilingual or multilingual chil- dren develop the ability to code switch back and forth between languages.

Learning theories describe these mental processes differently but not necessarily in ways that are mutually exclusive. Constructivists believe that children acquire mental constructs or con- cepts through reciprocal processes of responding and adapting to experiences. Behaviorists believe that learning across the life span is represented by a continual process of operant conditioning based on positive and negative reinforcement (Charlesworth, 2004; Levine & Munsch, 2011).

Developmental Delays and Special Needs

When we observe that young children do not seem to be following the generally expected path of development in one or more domains, evaluation may be indicated to determine

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Children achieve several significant milestones in their gross motor development as they acquire mobility, strength, and coordination.

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Teaching from a Developmental Perspective Chapter 4

whether the child has a special need. Special needs include any kind of needphysical, emotional, or cognitivethat differs substantially from the normal range of abilities. The child could have a developmental delay, or she could be gifted.

While it is not unusual, as discussed earlier, for an individual childs growth and development to be uneven, at some point it may become apparent that the child is either not meeting or exceeding expected benchmarks or milestones. Sometimes special needs are apparent at birth, as in a child with a cleft palate. But in many instances it takes months or years for such needs to be recognized. You wouldnt know, for example, if a child had speech articulation problems until that child was expected to be speaking clearly, between ages 3 and 4.

Sometimes delayed progress, a physical condition, or atypical behavior is due to factors that can be addressed with the expectation that a child will catch up. For instance, a tod- dler with frequent ear infections may experience a hearing impairment resulting in delayed language fluency. While medical intervention and natural growth of the structures of the inner ear will eventually resolve the frequency of infections, speech therapy and hearing accommodations may be indicated for a period of time until the child has regained normal functioning. A child born with a congenital physical condition like club feet (abnormally rotated inward) may experience many surgeries to correct the condition. The childs ortho- pedic disability may require adaptations to the arrangement of the classroom to accom- modate leg braces or a wheelchair, with the expectation that the condition will eventually be corrected.

But other developmental disabilities will to address learning and emotional needs throughout the early childhood period and beyond. For example, a child who displays distinctive physical behavior such as hand-flapping, inability to make eye contact, or repeating the same words over and over again should be referred for evaluation to determine if the child has autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Once diagnosed with ASD, the child may be offered occupational, speech, and cognitive therapies. Other cases of physiological, biological, or genetically inherited conditions, such as cerebral palsy or Down syndrome, con- stitute special needs that require active intervention and support on a long-term basis. Table 4.1 describes various special needs conditions (Cook & Cook, 2005).

Inclusion Federal lawthe Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)requires that chil- dren with disabilities be included in regular classroom or care settings to the maximum extent possible and provides funding for resources to meet their special needs. (IDEA does not pro- vide funds to address the special needs of gifted children; programs and funding for these children are localized.)

Inclusion of children with disabilities serves several important purposes. First, typically devel- oping young children who grow up within a diverse environment learn and internalize accep- tance of their differently abled peers, which leads to higher levels of self-esteem among children who might otherwise feel marginalized or stigmatized. Second, separating children with disabilities and categorizing them by a single factor they may have in common (such as ADHD) risks grouping those who are otherwise very different from one another in many respects (Greenspan, Wieder, & Simons, 1998). Third, keeping children with delays or special needs isolated from their peers almost guarantees that they will be labeled for life in spite of the fact that except for their identified special need, they are like typically developing children in many other ways.

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Teaching from a Developmental Perspective Chapter 4

Therefore teachers are expected to adapt all elements of the curriculum to serve and engage not only typically developing children but also those with special needs of all different kinds. Some teachers and caregivers without extensive training in special education may feel that they are not prepared to meet the needs of children with disabilities. Early childhood educa- tors must remember that one of the key principles of DAP is that if we consider each child as a unique individual, we accept that all children have special needs (Copple & Bredekamp, 2009). Making decisions about how to individualize curriculumincluding the environment, materi- als, and teaching strategiesis appropriate for all children. The key is a thorough understand- ing of development across all the domains, so that curriculum is implemented with sensitivity to each childs strengths and challenges as he or she grows and learns.

Adapting for Children with Special Needs Adaptations for children with disabilities are intended to provide as normal a school or child care setting experience for the child as possible. An adaptation is something we do to alter the physical environment, curricular materials, and/or teaching strategies to include the child in the daily life and learning opportunities of the classroom or child-care setting.

IDEA requires that all states have a Child Find process to identify children with disabilities and provide services as early as possible. Communities administer special education services for pre- school children in different ways. But if a child has been officially referred, evaluated, and diag- nosed with a condition that qualifies under IDEA as a special need, a team of peopleincluding the teacher, family, and specialistswill work together to provide support in the school or care setting. The team will work with an individualized plan (called an Individualized Family

Table 4.1: Special Needs

Special Need Description

Physical (orthopedic) conditions

Physical limitations caused by birth defects or injury that prevent or impair mobility and/or dexterity.

Visual impairment Many potential causes that result in partial to total blindness or limited sight requiring corrective lenses.

Hearing impairment Any condition that results in less than normal hearing; may be permanent or temporary; may also have limited speech.

Speech/language impairment Difficulty in producing speech, or delayed development of language.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Difficulty paying or maintaining attention and organization, possibly accom- panied by high activity levels and restlessness.

Conduct (behavior) disorder

Oppositional defiant disorder

Problems with authority, obedience, or anger/impulse control.

Learning disability Normal intelligence but difficulty learning due to a variety of perceptual problems such as reversing or inverting letters and numbers.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)

Broad continuum of behaviors that range from mild (Aspergers syndrome) to profound difficulties with sensory processing, social interaction, and communication.

Intellectual disability Lower than normal intelligence that can be due to a number of factors, mostly genetic in origin.

Giftedness Much higher than normal intelligence or aptitude in one or more develop- mental domains.

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The Importance of Play Chapter 4

Service Plan [IFSP] for children from birth to age 3 or an Individualized Education Plan [IEP] for a child over 3 years of age) that identifies specific curricular and developmental goals, needed resources, adaptations, and support personnel, time lines, and follow-up measures.

Table 4.2 provides examples of the kinds of adaptations that might be made for children with different kinds of special needs.

Table 4.2: Examples of Adaptations for Special Needs

Physical Limitations (Office of Head Start, 2012)

Visual Impairments (Cox & Dykes, 2001; Monahan, 2011)

Speech and/ or Hearing Impairments (Anderson, 2012)

Learning Disabilities and Behavioral Issues (Office of Head Start, 2012)

Gifted and Talented (Cook & Cook, 2005)

Modify equipment for access (e.g., raising or lowering easel, taping feet to trike pedals).

Maintain unob- structed pathways and keep furniture and materials always in the same place.

Reduce background noise; make eye contact when speaking.

Reduce distrac- tions (e.g., give one material at a time, limit choices).

Offer differentiated materials and activi- ties that provide sufficient challenge.

Arrange furniture for safe and easy access.

Familiarize with locations of all spaces the child will use.

Use hand signals to communicate needs; offer inter- preter and/or sign language training.

Use picture charts for or schedules.

Provide oppor- tunities to work independently.

Adapt materials so child can work as independently as possible.

Arrange special lighting and/ or magnification devices.

Maintain predict- able routines.

Work with children in small groups or individually.

Work with children in small groups or individually.

Allow extra time for physical tasks that are difficult, such as dressing or eating.

Provide seating close to needed resources.

Arrange seating close to the teacher.

Seat distract- ible child in lap for large-group activities.

Simplify routines to as few steps as possible.

Provide reading matter with large or raised print; large, brightly colored or high-contrast toys; materials with textured surfaces.

Provide amplifica- tion devices.

Ensure that there is ample time and notice of transition times.

4.2 The Importance of Play Whatever their needs, we know that all young children learn through all their senses, and that a good curriculum will provide activities that encourage looking, listening, tasting, smell- ing, and touching. Early childhood educators and researchers agree that young children are primarily active learners. They should not spend long periods of time in whole-group or ; that is, hands-on experiences with objects and materials and time to move and use their bodies are the best match for this developmental period. The primary focus of

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The Importance of Play Chapter 4

a curriculum for young children should be the integration of experiences across all of a childs developmental domains and learning through play.

The childs right to play was expressed as a global concern in 1989 in the form of a U.N. General Assembly resolution at the Convention on the Rights of the Child (International Play Association, 2009). Article 31 states the following:

That every child has the right to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.

That member governments shall respect and promote the right of the child to partici- pate fully in cultural and artistic life and shall encourage the provision of appropriate and equal opportunities for cultural, artistic, recreational and leisure activity.

What Is Play?

Most early childhood educators agree that play is an active and enjoyable activity that is internally motivated, process-oriented, and directed by the players. The International Play Association (2009) has this to say about play:

[It should be] controlled by children rather than adults, and . . . undertaken for its own sake and not for prescribed purposes. The term free play is often used to dis- tinguish this from organized recreational and learning activities, which of course also have important roles in child development. However, the characteristics of free play such as control, uncertainty, flexibility, novelty, non-productivityare what produce a high degree of pleasure and, simultaneously, the incentive to continue to play. Recent neurological research indicates that this type of behavior plays a significant role in the development of the brains structure and chemistry.

Play seems to be a universal. Left to their own devices, all children play, regardless of parental or teacher involvement. We examine and research play, then, in terms of how children engage and the influence and impact that play has on child development and learning.

Benefits of Play

Neuroscientists have become increasingly focused on the connections between play and brain development. A theory of mind has emerged that describes how the childs process of under- standing the difference between reality and the abstract develops through symbolic play (Bodrova & Leong, 2007). When a 3-year-old begins to use wooden blocks to represent a road or pieces of colored paper to represent fish in an imaginary aquarium, the foundation is laid for later representation of sounds with the squiggles we call letters or the measurement of temperature by a column of mercury in a thermometer.

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