Growing up together…
If the child’s health allows it, community integration
optimizes his or her development
Press release from the French National Academy of Medicine []
April 22, 2022
Child development is a dynamic process involving the interaction of biological, genetic, and environmental mechanisms. This development is not linear, and several stages or windows of vulnerability requiring intervention have been described throughout childhood (1). Biologically, the structural organization of appropriate neurons continues at least up to 1 year old (2). Corbetta et al. (3) have shown that, from the age of 6-9 months, early sensory-motor experiences and interactions are essential for acquiring the best cognitive and behavioral abilities. Indeed, the brain integrates this information to respond effectively to the environment (4). The development of communication and relationship skills is strongly influenced by early interpersonal relationships that control the child’s regulation of emotions as well as present and future social interactions (5).
Assessing the motor abilities of children aged 6 to12 months, Sacrey et al found that those who were less skilled in ‘seeking to grasp’ were more likely to develop autism spectrum features at 36 months. Early monitoring of simple motor skills would thus make it possible to identify children at risk of neurodevelopmental disorders, facilitating their orientation to appropriate cares (6). In another study of 82 children between 12 and 27 months, Neel et al showed that the type of parenting could modify the sensory development and behavior of children (5). A Brazilian study of 298 children aged 2-24 months confirmed that the risk of developmental delay in children was significantly reduced by a nurturing family environment (7). The influence of the environment is also found when the child spends his or her day in a community setting such as a nursery or childminder’s home, interacting with adults and other children whose behavior is diverse.
Thus, these basic and behavioral studies support the importance of a varied and stimulating environment, whatever the intrinsic potentialities of the children. When children are integrated into a community, such as a nursery or childminder’s home, the presence of all types of children, from a very early age, helps to broaden the behavioral and cognitive skills of those who are at risk to develop their full potential. The simultaneous presence of all children also contributes to the development of tolerance towards others for their further personal development.
The National Academy of Medicine recommends:
– to integrate all clinically eligible children into community, without distinction, so that the brain plasticity of early childhood benefits from an enriching environment for all;
– to facilitate parental guidance by including information on children’s early development in health records, in order to take advantage of parents for increased competence;
– to increase the number of staff needed in the community in order to provide adequate supervision;
– to provide an additional training to the community staff in order to optimize the support of all children in their developmental trajectories, also to better identify those at risk of neurodevelopmental disorders.
- Hascoët JM. Psychosomatic factors in infant development. Bull Acad natle Med 2021 ;205 :921-3
- Lucassen PJ et al. Adult neurogenesis, human after all (again): Classic, optimized, and future approaches. Behav Brain Res 2020; 381:112458
- Corbetta D et al. Seeing and touching: the role of sensory-motor experience on the development of infant reaching. Infant Behav Dev 2009;32:44-58
- Dionne-Dostie E et al. Multisensory integration and child neurodevelopment. Brain Sci. 2015, 5, 32-57
- Neel ML et al. Parenting style associations with sensory threshold and behaviour: a prospective cohort study in term/preterm infants. Acta Paediatr 2019;108:1616-23
- Sacrey LR et al. The reach-to-grasp movement in infants later diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder: a high risk sibling cohort study. J Neurodev Disord. 2018;10(1):41
- Guimaraes AF et al. Risk of developmental delay of children aged between two and 24 months and its association with the quality of family stimulus. Rev Paul Pediatr 2013;31:452-8