Monday, 18 July 2011

Developmental Leaps

So Zane is now 19 months old and he seems to be going through another developmental leap, or a wonder week. These developmental leaps come at predictable times throughout the first few years of a child growing up, and can be when the child's brain is doing a significant amount of processing for a new physical or mental milestone. Mental Development is when the brain grows, adds new functionality, and matures. As it does (in stages, on nature’s schedule) the cranium grows, neurons are added, and successively higher perceptual functions emerge.

Whilst a child is going through a developmental leap they can show many signs such as being more grouchy than usual, being unusually sensitive, increased crying, sleeping patterns change or become disturbed and clinginess. The are many more signs but the could be as individual as your child is.

It is important to fully support your child through a developmental leap, it can be a scary time, they don't understand their emotions or why they are behaving in a certain way so we need to assist as parents to label how they are feeling, which will give them the words to help make the connections, to enable them to communicate how they are feeling in future, and also give them the love and comfort that they need during this period.

I know when Zane is going through a leap because his sleep is very disturbed, he goes off his food, and his speech regresses. Regression is common, the brain is going through a lot of changes and some well honed skills are put on the back burner. When Zane was between 12-13 months he went through his biggest leap so far. He has been able to talk since he was 9 months old and quickly developed a large vocabulary, but just after his first birthday he went from saying around 50 words to 15, and his most common words seemed to be forgotten. It was a worrying time for us, I had started looking into Autism as he was showing a lot of classic signs. Then one day I caught him walking across our front room when I wasn't looking. The little monkey had been walking in secret. Soon after all of his words and more came back to him, he started making eye contact more and he would acknowledge people, point and wave. It would seem his brain was just concentrating on learning to walk and as soon as he had mastered the skill he was back to his usual chatty self.

Developmental leaps typically come at the following intervals, give or take a few weeks.
  • 5 weeks
  • 8 weeks
  • 12 weeks
  • 17 weeks
  • 26 weeks
  • 36 weeks
  • 44 weeks
  • 53 weeks
  • 64 weeks
  • 75 weeks
I have found that being able to predict when these leaps are coming you can prepare yourself mentally and physically before it arrives. If I know its coming it isn't a shock to the system and I don't get the confusion of wondering where my placid, clever little boy has gone, and I can get a few early nights in so that the sleep deprivation isn't so bad when I am waking three times a night.

For me the last few months of leaps have been the hardest, I found parenting pretty easy when Zane was less mobile and less aware of self. Once he hit around 15 months we realised that we needed to handle him in a slightly different way and boundaries needed to be enforced and kept consistent to avoid confusion. Once we got back into our swing of our parenting a toddler it was easier again. It would seem that whilst he is constantly learning and developing, so are we as parents.

So this last week I have found myself sitting on the sofa at 5am necking strong coffee after a rubbish nights sleep with a kicking fidgety toddler in my bed. Whilst I am sitting bleary eyed Zane is running around playing, and wanting to go outside into the garden. It is worth it though, every time he learns a new word or a new skill I burst with pride, I just have to keep repeating the mantra of "this phase will pass", and it does.

Some points of reference which I have found very useful over the past 19 months are This site is very in depth and has been a godsend to me. For our next child I think I will get the book to learn more. This site explains it all in a simple way on one page. Very useful if you are losing your sanity and quickly want to know that what is going on is normal and expected.

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