Chapter 7 - The vital years

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The vital years


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these stages ensures that the next stage comes at the right moment - and that they have completed the neurological maturation that goes with it.
  "If babies are bundled up for so long that they don't really crawl much at all, but go straight to creeping, then they may well pay a price for that five years later when they get to the point where they need to be able to converge their vision perfectly."
  But how on earth can creeping affect a baby's eyesight? "Basically, a newborn baby has no ability to converge its two eyes," says Janet Doman. " But when the baby starts to crawl, the need to use two eyes together is born - because all of a sudden the baby is moving forward in space and he begins to hit the sofa or the chair. Nature's a little bit of a tough teacher, and whenever this happens the baby says: 'Wait a second; I'd better see where I'm going.' And that's when the baby begins to pull in those two roving eyes and begins to say: 'Where am I?' After that, every time the baby is moving he will turn on his vision, look to see where he's going, and bring those two eyes together. As they converge their vision, it gets better and better. But if you miss that vital stage of development you're missing out a vital stage of brain development."
  Part of the reason is very simple: to creep and crawl, a baby needs to use all four limbs. And this movement strengthens the 300 million nerve-cell pathways that link both sides of the brain through the corpus callosum. Children who skip creeping or crawling - common in youngsters with severe brain damage from birth - thus find it impossible to fully coordinate both hemispheres.

2. Use your common sense
  Almost everything we learn about the world comes in through our five senses. Very early in life, infants try to touch, smell, taste, hear and look at whatever surrounds them. So encourage them from the outset.
  Says Janet Doman: "A baby is born into a world in which, essentially, he is blind, can't hear very well and his sensation is far from perfect. And that's a very uncomfortable place for a baby to be. He's trying to figure out: 'Where am I? What's going on? What's gonna happen next?' Because he can't see, he can't hear and he can't feel very well. So I think the job of a parent is very clear: to give enough visual, auditory and tactile stimulation so that the baby can get out of this dilemma of not being able to see, hear or feel.
  "That doesn't have to be complicated. For example, often new


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