As humans, we are born without a completely developed nervous system. We now know that the human brain takes 25 years to meet its full developmental potential. From birth to early adulthood, our nervous system, personalities, and over all sense of self are shaped through stimulus from our environment. As children we learn to adapt to our environment in order to obtain our stimulus needs. These needs change as the child develops and matures in various stages. Understanding these child developmental stages is often a critical component to one’s personal growth in therapy. When a child experiences trauma, abuse, or other non-promoting events, he or she may become emotionally, cognitively or developmentally arrested. Working through those traumas at every stage is freeing to the individual to meet their full potential.
Below are several models of infant and childhood development to use in understanding your own growth.
Birth to Two Years
Sensorimotor stage (from Wikipedia).
Cognitive development is Jean Piaget’s theory. Through a series of stages, Piaget proposed four stages of cognitive development: the sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational and formal operational period. The sensorimotor stage is the first of the four stages in cognitive development which “extends from birth to the acquisition of language”. In this stage, infants progressively construct knowledge and understanding of the world by coordinating experiences (such as vision and hearing) with physical interactions with objects (such as grasping, sucking, and stepping). Infants gain knowledge of the world from the physical actions they perform within it. They progress from reflexive, instinctual action at birth to the beginning of symbolic thought toward the end of the stage.
Children learn that they are separated from the environment. They have aspect of environment, even though they may be outside the reach of a child’s senses. In this stage, according to Piaget, the development of object permanence is one of the most important accomplishments. Object permanence is a child’s understanding that objects continue to exist even though he or she cannot be seen or heard. Peek-a-boo is a good test for that. By the end of the sensorimotor period, children develop a permanent sense of self and object.