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Sequential Processing in Child Development


An essay on childbrain development

Three ways to document brain development:

Using chronological age to document age

Chronological age is the days, weeks, months, and finally years that a human lives. To say that a baby is 6 weeks of age means that the baby has survived 6 weeks of life. This now becomes the chronological age of the baby. Experts now attach certain developmental milestones to that chronological age.

Using neurological age to document age

Neurological age, or developmental age, is the average age a human achieves certain milestones of development. For instance, by 6 weeks of age the baby should have reasonable head control and a positive Babinski reflex. If this is true, then the baby is developmentally at 6 weeks of age. However, if the same baby develops these milestones at four weeks of life, that baby is at 6 weeks developmentally in those areas even though it is only 4 weeks away from birth. Conversely, if the baby is 12 weeks of age but is just now developing these milestones, that baby is still at 6 weeks of age developmentally.

The third way of measuring development that we will concern ourselves with here is academic age.
For instance, a child at the chronological age of seven should be age appropriately in the second grade and developmentally functioning at certain neurological levels to be “normal” or average. If a child is nine years old and in the second grade, then experts would say that this child is behind academically. A five year old could be neurologically functioning at the level of a second grader and the experts would call this a “bright” or gifted child.

Unfortunately, this advanced child would not be placed in the second grade where it belongs academically, but placed in chronological age classes! This will in turn hinder the neurological stimulation of this child and force it to conform to “normal” standards. (This is not done by legal standards and enforcement of laws but rather by the acquiescing parent who allows this to happen when the experts place the child where they think the child belongs.)

Using sequential processing to document age

For the model of development in this book, one method of documenting developmental age is sequential processing skills. Sequential processing is an integral part of neurological development and very easy to determine.
Sequential processing is the brains ability to receive, process, store, retrieve and utilize information in the specific order received by the senses.

For instance if you speak a specific order of items, or show them in order to your child, we are interested in documenting how many items they can repeat back in the same order.
There are 5 input senses of seeing, hearing, touching, smelling and tasting that feed input information to the brain. We will deal primarily with seeing and hearing in this chapter on sequential processing.

How sequential processing works.

After the chronological age of one year old, the neurological processing skills of the child should be one also. This will allow the child to process one thing. For example, you say toes, and the baby reaches for its toes. You say where’s Daddy and the baby reaches for Daddy. Visually you might show the baby a picture or several pictures laid out on the floor and ask them to point to the picture of Mommy and they can do this. This is a major piece of information and it correlates to the child’s neuro-developmental age of one.

By the chronological age of two, the normal number of sequences a child can complete will be two. Developmentally, this equates to an appropriately developed two year old. For instance, you say, find your shoes and a Kleenex, and they child can do just that! Or you say point to the raisin and point to the stove, and they do it in order. (Shoes and socks are not actually two separate items as they can be easily linked together by association making them one item.)

Interestingly, society has a stigma attached to the “terrible twos” because of the child’s narrow view of life that is limited to “I want” and also “don’t want”! This is because of the limited ability to process information.

At the age of three, the child should be able to process a sequence of three both visually and auditorilly. If you send this child on a treasure hunt to find a spoon, a doll, and a book, this child will return triumphant with the goodies. If they can only process two items then developmentally they are still two years of age. This child will act and think exactly like a two year old even though chronologically it is three years old.

To help accelerate your child out of the “terrible twos”, increase their processing skills to three!
At the age of four, how many items do you think they should be processing? That’s right, four both spoken verbally and taken in visually.

At the age of five, you guessed it! The child should be able to receive, process, store, retrieve, and utilize five items in order from short-term memory to be developmentally “normal” at that chronological age.
Therefore, if you have a five or even a ten year old that acts like a two year old, it will behoove you to check the developmental age of that child!

The developmental age of six.

At the developmental age of six, a child should be able to sequentially process six items both visually and auditorially. The child does not have to be six years chronologically to be a developmental six! They could be four years old and they could be sixteen.

At the developmental age of six an amazing thing happens in the brains processing ability. Six sequences is the foundation for understanding concepts.

An example of a concept is phonetics. Who says that the letters “ph” makes an “f” sound? How does a letter “a” make a long vowel sound one time and a short vowel sound the next? A child can learn to read by visual memorization of words at a very early developmental age (I have two and three year old Down Syndrome kids that can read very well from visually learning flash card words). Every time you see the word ”elephant” you automatically know what it is from memory and not by phonetically sounding it out. Phonetics mean very little to a child until the child can process at a level of six sequences. This is why some children struggle so long and hard to understand phonetics. Raise the processing ability to six and phonetics will fall into place for that child!

Another example of a concept will be numerals. Who says that the numeral “5” equals five cookies? Five fingers can equal five cookies but the numeral “5” is a concept even as all numerals are. A child who processes less than six sequences can count and understand five fingers, five horses, and five gum drops, but will have trouble relating five any things to the numeral “5”.

In light of this we may better understand why we start our kids into school with math and language, etc. at about the age of six.

The average American.

The average American adult processes at about the sequence of seven sequences both visually and auditory. This equates to the developmental age of seven! The higher abilities above seven a person achieves, the higher functioning individual he or she is academically and socially.

I have found that the more successful college kids have a higher than average processing skills abilities.
I have also seen students in college that could only process six sequences and have seen them struggle to maintain passing grades in classes. The higher the processing skills, the less the struggle the college student has to maintain good grades!

Every infant is born with the innate potential to achieve genius levels! It is only a matter of opportunities that are presented to the developing child’s brain that determines that child’s academic acumen. Training a child in accelerated processing skills will shorten the learning time in any subject considerably. There is no reasonable excuse for any child to fall short of genius! It is a matter of parenting and instruction not eugenics (good breeding).

Take, for instance, Einstein. The average human brain weighs about 24 ounces. Einstein’s brain weighed in a couple of ounces less than average! More than 10% less! If acumen is the matter of brain volume, then Einstein should have been 10% less than average. So the conclusion to that fact is that it is not an issue of the volume of grey matter, but the organization thereof along with processing skills that makes the genius!

The disparity between auditory and visual skills

Sound social decisions are based in strong auditory processing abilities. The social skills center of the brain is located in the pre-frontal cortex of the brain. It is an area that completes development in the teenage years and early twenties. A well developed social skills center, however, is limited by sequential processing skills.

In this computer and television age with all the video games and visual input we get day in and day out, we are starting to process higher visually, but are losing ground in auditory skills. Decades ago it was not this way. We were an auditory society and processed higher in the auditory processing skills.

Video games that hurtle objects across the visual fields and faster travel (over 15-20 mph) with a peripheral blur of objects is a recently new development in input to the human brain. This new input is causing a societal shift in processing abilities and is an exacerbating factor to the rising incidents of violence, degradation of moral values, and rampant diagnosis ADD/ADHD, AADHD, and other disorders of the brain.

I always recommend a near balance between the visual and auditory processing abilities. For instance, if a child can process six things visually he should be near a six in auditory skills. If there is more than a two point spread between the two processing abilities, then we need to exercise the weaker ability more.

I personally recommend that a higher level of one auditory digit over visual funtion be preferred for greater sociological function in the individual.

Symptoms of low processing abilities.

Some symptoms of low processing abilities are: inability to accomplish tasks, preferring to play with younger children, inappropriate and childlike emotions, poor decision making skills, delayed thinking, poor academic performance, problems with phonetics, poor social skills, bullying, and some intraversions.

Testing the child.

When testing your child for sequential processing ability, start with a low sequence of perhaps one or two items and progress by adding one more item to the sequences until the child fails to repeat the items back in the proper order. When they can consistently accomplish a sequence number of for instance, five, and do this nine out of ten times This will give you a general idea of where your child is at in their processing ability.

When checking the auditory sequence abilities, speak them in a monotone (one tone) voice so as not to provide emphasis to any one item. Say the items clearly and allow one second intervals between items. Immediately let the child repeat the sequence back to you. An example of an auditory sequence of four, you might use these items (remember call them out in one second intervals!) car, tree, soap, and banana. Notice that the items are unrelated to prevent “linking by association”.

When checking visual sequencing abilities, use picture flash cards of items, random numerals, random alphabet letters, pointing to objects in a room or even items in a picture. When using picture flash cards, take about one second to show each picture making sure not to linger or elaborate on any one picture. When using flash cards with numerals or letters, show the card for no more than 3 seconds before hiding it from their view and letting them tell you what the order was.

Bridging the gap in sequential processing

Bridging is a process whereby you can help your child achieve the next level of sequences. It is for use after the child can consistently repeat back a number of sequences either auditory or a visual. For instance, if your child starts out at a consistent ability to repeat four sequences, work on five to expand their ability to that level. If they are struggling to do five after a day or two, or just need some affirmative triumphs, you can give them a sequence of four. Then after they repeat that sequence in order, give them the same sequence in the same order but add on new item to the end of it. This bridging will show them that it is possible to do five sequencing which will help raise the intensity of the exercise.
Another way to bridge is to use related items at first and them gradually shift to unrelated items until all items are unrelated. An example of four related items would be apple, banana, orange, and grape.

Making your own flash cards.

To make your own flashcards with random numerals or alphabet letters, print them in ½ inch tall block style characters upon a 3X5 note card. Use black or red felt tip markers when making these cards. You will want to make at least 50 cards to start. Then when for instance, your child can do three sequences on a flashcard and is ready to attempt 4, you can just simply add digits or letters to the beginning and end of the existing sequences. If you have cards with too many items, simply cover the unneeded characters with your finger as you flash them to the child.

Authored by Neurodevelopment Consultant Craig Stellpflug NDC, CNC
Healing Pathways Medical Clinic Scottsdale, AZ
Copyright 2010 Craig Stellpflug© Permission is hereby granted to copy and distribute this article but only in its entirety

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