February 28, 2007

Dream Mentor Programme - II

25th Feb saw the second session of the Dream Mentor Programme. It was held at the Indian Social Institute of Jesuits. Some interesting facts on Child development were shared by Dave.

He gave the following equation and graph to convey his points.

Nutrition + Emotion (love) + Right Time = Normal Development of a child

The equation means: for a child to have a normal development, nutrition and emotion - basically love - should be fed at the right time.

The WHO Growth Charts/Graph’s Y-axis represents the growth parameters of a kid (e.g. length, weight etc.). The X-axis represents the age. A kid having y1 length/weight - when he is born at x1 - should have y3 length/weight when he reaches the age of x2. The blue curve shows the normal growth curve. The red one is that of an underprivileged kid. His growth curve tends to be bumpy due to lack of nutrition and emotion given at the wrong time. The reason why underprivileged kids are not physically fit when compared to mainstream kids is because of this bumpy ride in their life. This bumpy curve could happen to a mainstream kid too... if proper care is not given to that kid.

To drive in his point further, Dave drew the figure given below...

During the 1st year, when the kid starts making sounds, he needs his caretaker - mother - to be around... ALWAYS... esp. when he meets a strange environment. As he progresses through age two... that is, when he starts learning 'words', he would develop the courage to move away from his caretaker... but only for a few minutes… and a few steps. When he is in his 3rd year mastering more words, he develops the habit to 'explore' his surroundings. And as he passes through his fourth year, when he learns proper sentences, he would want to run through the 'world' making it difficult for the caretaker to control him.

If you have noticed, all these states – from taking a few steps to running around, and from mumbling to speaking proper sentences – happens in sequence. Imagine this situation: a two year old takes a few steps away from his caretaker; confronts something strange; gets spooked; rushes back to his caretaker... only to realize that his caretaker is not around! What will go through his mind?! Won't it affect his growth and development if he keeps facing this almost daily? Underprivileged kids go through something like this. The bumps, mentioned in the growth curve, take its shape when love and caring is not given in the right quantity at the right time. Learning sounds, words, sentences etc are signs of growth that takes place in his brain. And for that to happen, both nutrition and love are required. Say... a mainstream kid mumbles some word; his mother hears that; goes to him... and encourages him to say that again. If that kid was in an orphanage, he might have lost that chance of ‘encouragement’. And that 'encouragement' is very important for a child's development. The reason why IQ of a kid goes bad, when he goes through a rough patch of life, is due to those bumpy curves. If that kid gets proper care, you will see his IQ shooting up.

There is another problem with these bumpy curves. If the kid doesn't get what he is supposed to get... at say… the age of two. At some later point of time in his life, effects of this will show up. E.g. when he hits his teen-age and if he confronts something complicated, he might react like an immature brat. It will take time, effort, love and patience to make him face that ‘complication’ without let him budge in OR go through 'confused maturity'

To summarize…

If a child fails to thrive for its first ten weeks – this damage can be measured at ten years.

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