This study looks at the myelin that surrounds each nerve axon and how it develops from birth, and what they found was amazing! First of all, lets take a look at what myelin is: Myelin wraps around each nerve axon and is so important because it provides the electrical insulation and speeds up the nerve impulses. (See below for a graphic of how it looks.)
Interestingly, the researchers found that the myelin rapidly develops in young children, but then slows down when children are around three to four years of age, “indicating anatomical evidence for a critical time during development before which environmental influence on cognition may be greatest” (p. 16170, O’Muircheartaigh, 2013). This myelin growth period coincides with what we know about the critical periods of language development for children, with the environmental influences on cognition being the experiences, people and environments that children are exposed to at an early age.
Making the most of the critical period:
Right from your child’s birth you can be doing many things to make the most of this critical period of language development. These include:
· Monitoring your child’s hearing skills, especially if they regularly suffer from ear infections.
· Taking the time to play and talk with your child one on one.
· Turning the TV off when you are not watching it, avoid having it there as background noise
· Praising your child and rejoicing in the development of new words together
· Adding language to every day activities (bath time, play time, grocery shopping)
If you feel that your child is not developing their communication skills from an early age, first head to www.thespeel.com to get the free printable checklist for your child’s age. If you continue to be concerned, get in touch with me, or contact a local Speech Pathologist.
Enjoy the early years of language development and know that you are making an amazing difference in your child’s life by surrounding them with language opportunities.