Human Development Notebook
Sept. 27, 2010
Brain and memory
Principles and theories
When a human child is born, their brain is not yet fully developed. This development takes place over time and involves neurological processes as well as environmental stimulation. Babies have all the neurons that they will ever have at the time of their birth. Neurons are the structures that enable brains to store and transmit information (Woolfolk, 2010, p.29). The connectors which allow the information from the neurons to travel across the brain are not developed at this time, however. These fibers, called axons and dendrites, continue to mature throughout the early stages of the child’s life. How frequently a particular section of the brain is simulated determines the number and strength of the connecting fibers in that area. In areas of the brain where stimulation is lacking, a pruning process takes place to reduce the number of neurons active in those parts of the brain. While scientists may differ on the exact timeline of human brain development, all seem to agree that people do develop at different rates, and while it happens gradually, the development of the human brain is a relatively orderly process (Woolfolk, 2010, p.28). In the normal advancement of brain function, there are two distinct types of overproduction and pruning stages. The first is labeled experience-expectant. It theory stipulates that certain areas of the brain are over-supplied with neurons expecting a large influx of stimuli such as the region of the brain which controls human visual input. If this area does not receive the anticipated input, because of some form of sensory deficiency, whether physical or environmental, it will send the neurons to another section of the brain where they may be more useful, such as the auditory processing center. The second category of overproduction and pruning is referred to as experience-dependant. As its name implies, this action is driven by the individual experiences of the child and relates to the specific circumstances of which the brain has been exposed. An example of this would be the acquisition of a second language and the mastery of the unique pronunciation it entails (Woolfolk, 2010, p. 30). Issues and concerns
When the brain fails to develop normally, a neurological disorder can present. One such disorder is autism. Autism is defined as a pervasive developmental disorder of children, characterized by impaired communication, excessive rigidity, and emotional detachment (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/autism). Symptoms of autism are usually evident by age three and include but aren’t limited to delayed language skills, a need for repetitive actions, and sometimes self-injury. Autism affects the entire family of the person in which it presents itself. The incidence of stress-related issues in parents of autism diagnosed children is higher than the norm. Siblings and parents of autistic children sometimes benefit from counseling to help cope with the various issues that arise while living with autism (http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/autism/detail_autism.htm#155663082). Incorporating life skills and any job and social skills training that is appropriate for the level of the disorder is highly recommended for the child. Studies indicated that early intervention is imperative, and that there is more positive advancement made in some cases in overall positive progression of the child’s life skill and coping advancement if treatment is administered as soon as an issue is detected (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autism). In some cases, symptoms of autism decrease with time and as adults, those persons are able to be self-sufficient but this is not the most often seen scenario. Classroom impact
Educators who have in their classroom a child dealing with autism have a number of challenges. Depending on the severity of the disorder, there are processes which can be...
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