As new parents you would be forgiven for taking your child’s developmental milestones for granted. What parents often don’t realise is how a child’s perception is developing right from conception. Perceptual development that is vital for a developing child’s cognitive abilities, for him to be able to socialise, develop a sense of self-awareness, master hand-eye co-ordination and memory skills. Without the ability to perceive, it is impossible for the developing child to have a real sense of who they are and how they fit into the world. First one experiences a sensation, such as touch, smell, taste, sound or sight, and then there is an interpretation, followed by perception, resulting in a response. This is how your child makes sense of the world, and in this world of ever-changing technology and consumerism which target every aspect of your how your child perceives the world, as a parent your awareness of how your child’s perceptions are shaped should be of utmost importance, and should be consciously guided right from the foundation phase, in other words the very beginning of your child’s life. From as early as one month old, a baby will begin to coordinate information from their senses and will intentionally repeat actions that occur automatically as pleasurable reflexes, such as thumb sucking. Babies this age can also coordinate auditory and visual sensations by turning toward sounds.
Although it is important to remember that no two children share the same set of strengths or weaknesses to the same degree, and therefore may reach normal developmental milestones at varying stages, it is a myth that the earlier a child reaches those milestones, the more intelligent they are. What is true however is that a child’s range of perceptual development is not pre-determined at birth, and in the right environment, a child’s IQ can be increased if it is consistently nurtured and strengthened. Again, parental awareness of what is required to encourage healthy perceptual development is fundamental. Although there are many types of perception, the two most common areas of difficulty involved with a learning disability are visual and auditory perception. So much information is processed through sight and sound that a child with visual and or auditory perception disorder would be seriously disadvantaged in for example a classroom situation, where learning aids are presented mostly both visually and verbally. Parents with children diagnosed with conditions relating to perceptual disability should be encouraged by the fact that, with the right intervention, their child can learn to build up areas of weakness. While it is important to address the area of need directly, it is also necessary that children be able to function successfully in the classroom. Using visual aids in conjunction with verbal instructions and eliminating noise distractions for a child with auditory or speech perception difficulties for example, can easily be incorporated into a home or classroom environment with little disruption.
With knowledge and understanding of how their child responds and reacts to the world, parents who support their children early, with understanding and the right developmental aids can greatly benefit them in giving them the advantage in preparing for what is required to properly process, and therefore react appropriately to situations governed by social norms and therefore function successfully and confidently as adults.