Saturday, March 26, 2005

Babies learn early

Research recently revealed that babies just four days old have a basic understanding of addition and subtraction. Now, University of Reading research psychologist Graham Schafer has discovered that infants—-typically considered prelinguistic—-can learn words for uncommon things long before they can speak.
He reports that babies of nine months can learn, through repeated show and tell, the names for various objects that have no direct meaning in their lives--that is, they can't eat it or poop into it.
Here is how Schafer describes it: “This is the first demonstration that we can choose what words the children will learn and that they can respond to them with an unfamiliar voice giving instructions in an unfamiliar setting.”
This is my interpretation of the importance of his findings: young children, even babies, understand things that their parents say and do, or at least they conceptualise (make sense of) what they see and hear, in their own ways.
In other words, as I have been saying for years and as I have said in TIA, babies learn from their parents from the early days after they are born.
Schafer hopes that his studies of language development will help scientists to understand more about autism and Williams syndrome.
He also notes that children who are taught language skills by their parents earlier than most other children do not have a significant advnatage over others that learn them later. The others catch up, so the early teaching of language skills does little to help and may even harm the child by forcing something that does not come naturally.
I question the wisdom of spending a month teaching a young child something that the child could learn in an hour a year or two later. But that is how the school systems work.

Bill Allin

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