What is cognitive development? How important is it?
Cognitive development involves looking at the neurological development of a child. So under cognition comes intelligence, memory, attention span, distraction of the child and, of course, abilities to perceive things. And cognitive development deals with the development of all these aspects and traits.
How does a child pick up various skills?
There are certain skills that are already there when a child is born. Certain expectations also exist as soon as the child is born – these are called ‘milestones’. For instance, when the child reaches three months, you presume development is on the mark. But if there is a delay in the milestone, then there could be a possible delay in the child’s cognitive development.
So the minute a child is born, you observe the child’s early responses like how he or she cries, how he or she responds to the mother – all of these fall under cognitive development.
Can you elaborate on milestones?
Milestones can be many. Some common ones are – at three months, head holding can be a milestone, at five months you expect the child to turn over, at six months you expect the child to move forward and sit, by one year or one-and-a-half years you expect the child to walk.
How can parents help a baby develop cognitive skills?
Recent research shows that early stimulation is definitely a must. Babies with developmental delays, need to be provided with early stimulation. You encourage the mother to wear bright coloured clothes so that the child engages looking at different colours. Same with bright coloured items around the crib. All this encourages sensory development as most development in the initial days occurs through primary sensations like touch, feel, smell etc. You encourage people to use soft clothes, rough mats etc. so that the child can feel different textures around him or her.
It can be through visual senses and aural senses. So much so, that during pregnancy itself, we encourage mothers to listen to soft music and meditate, so that the child gets accustomed to being calm.
The sensory development process starts in the pregnancy phase itself. When the child is in the neo-natal stage, development starts.
What kind of colours should the mother wear when she is carrying the baby or after delivery? What colours should the child see?
More than determining the colours a mother should wear when she is carrying the baby, attention must be paid to the colours she wears post delivery. Natural and bright colours like yellow and green are encouraged. Also putting the child under the sun is good, not only for physiological jaundice to be combated but also because the brightness and colours like red and yellow stimulate the child. Geometrical shapes are also encouraged. They can be put around the child’s crib so that the child can get stimulated seeing those shapes.
What are the problems that can be observed in a child with slower-than-average cognitive development?
If there is a slight delay in cognitive development, it is first seen when the child starts looking down in the first few days. The baby may not make eye-to-eye contact and this initial trait can be a cause of worry. In the first few days, there is no visual fixation of the eyes. But after about a month or so, if the child starts looking down or doesn’t engage, then it could be the first indication of Sundown or the indication of Hydrocephalus. Usually such babies also have heads that seem unnaturally big.
When the cry is very feeble and not loud, it can also be an indicator for cognitive development being off-track. This can be a cause of worry. For all of this tracking, we have the VSMS (Vineland Social Maturity Scale) which is a well-document and well-researched scale, contains developmental patterns that a child may show and we can find out if there is any developmental delay.