Part 4 Cascades: Reviewing the evidence that active exploratory movement drives the development cascade

Meghann Lloyd, Megan MacDonald, Catherine Lord (2011) Autism – Motor skills of toddlers with autism spectrum disorder 17(2) pp. 133-146

Catherine Lord, PhD, is the Director of the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain, a joint project of New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Weill Cornell Medical College, and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, in partnership with New York Collaborates for Autism. She was involved in the development of standardized diagnostic instruments for ASD with colleagues from the United Kingdom and the United States (the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS), an observational scale; and the Autism Diagnostic Interview—Revised (ADI-R), a parent interview), now considered the gold standard for research diagnoses all over the world: –
“Movement is a primary element of ‘active play’ in young children (Pellegrini and Smith 1998). Active play facilitates the development of motor skills, social skills, an understanding of the world, daily living skills and adaptive behaviour. Fundamental gross motor skills are complex and require co-ordination, motor planning and control” …….. They ‘are commonly explored and discovered during self-directed or self-regulated learning both with and without peers during play’. ‘Motor deficits’ are present very early in development and may become more pronounced with age. All too often motor skills are not considered important enough when verbal, behavioural and social deficits take preference for parents”.

Linda B. Smith American Psychologist: It’s all connected (2013) November pp. 618-629

“Theorists often refer to the far reach of early developments on later ones in terms of the development cascade and they do so most often when talking about atypical development process, how, for example motor deficits cascade into the poor development of social skills,” “What is remarkable in the development patterns observed by Thelen and collaborators (Thelen et al.,1993) is that each infant found a solution by following individual development pathways that eventually converged to highly similar outcomes.”

Marc H Bornstein, Chun-Shin Hahn and Joan T. D. Suwalsky Psychological Science (2013) 24(10) pp. 1907-1917  

Marc H. Bornstein, Ph.D. is Senior Investigator Section on Child and Family Research NICHD, NIH Rockville MD:-

“Motor exploratory competence typifies infants’ everyday interactions with objects and people, and it also appears to serve as a foundation for cognitive functioning in childhood and academic achievement in adolescence.” “Infants who were more motorically mature and who explored more actively at 5 months of age achieved higher academic levels as 14-year-olds”. “The present study focused on motor-exploratory competence in infancy as a cascade catalyst of academic achievement in adolescence. Developmentalists have historically linked infant motor development to the growth of the mind. Gesell (1929) concentrated on the beginnings of prehension and object manipulation in infancy, and Piaget (1970) grasped the fundamental significance of sensorimotor activity as a foundation of knowing. In this large scale, normative, prospective 14-year longitudinal, multivariate, multisource controlled study, we found that motor-exploratory competence in infancy initiates a developmental cascade that affects subsequent levels of child intellectual functioning that, in turn, help to shape academic achievement in adolescence.” “The developmental course suggests gradual, action-driven discovery, typifies infants’ everyday interactions with objects and people, and it also appears to serve as a foundation for cognitive functioning in childhood and academic achievement in adolescence.”

Morton Ann Gernsbacher et al The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 49:1 2008 pp 43-50

Dr. Morton Ann Gernsbacher is Vilas Research Professor & Sir Frederic Bartlett Professor. She is Past President, Association for Psychological Science:-

“Whereas language is the mental representation of concepts and their relations, speech is – literally – the articulation of language (Gernsbacher, 2004), and speaking fluently requires ‘an intricate orchestration’ of oral-motor mechanisms (Gracco, 1994, p. 4).” “During typical development, oral motor skills are strongly associated with speech fluency” and “are also strongly associated with manual-motor (hand and finger) skills (Corbetta and Thelen 1996: Iverson and Thelen 1999). For example, during middle childhood, fluency in repeating sentences and non-words is associated with fluency in pegboard tasks (Bishop, 2002)”

Karen E.Adolph and Scott R.Robinson Motor Development, Department of Psychology, New York University

Karen E Adoph is Professor of Psychology and Neural Science at New York University, Director of the Infant Action Lab and President, International Congress of Infant Studies:-

“Motor behaviour is often relegated to an early and isolated chapter in books on developmental psychology. But growing evidence shows that motor development can institute a developmental cascade of events that extend beyond mere movement of the body, effecting changes in perceptual, cognitive and social development.” “Despite a recent resurgence of interest in motor development, it still remains a rarity in developmental science. This situation is ironic because motor behaviour is one of the broadest domains of development. All behaviour is motor behaviour.” “Moving before birth is necessary for proper physical development. Fetal movement exercises muscles, flexes joints, stretches skin and circulates amniotic fluid. Without these consequences of movement, physical development does not proceed normally.” “Over the first year infants display a smorgasbord of kicks, stomps, sways, flaps, flails, rocks, rubs, nods, shakes, bounces, bangs, waves and wiggles – totalling 67 documented forms of movement of every body part from tongue to toes. (Pick and Carman 1994; Thelen 1979). Spontaneous movements occur in isolation (e.g. a single leg kick) and in bouts of rhythmic activity (e.g. repetitively flexing and extending the leg). They are frequent, up to several hundred movements per hour and are frequently coordinated across the two sides of the body.” “ Children, like the young of other placental mammals, devote an inordinate amount of their waking lives to spontaneous, seemingly pointless, repetitive, voluntary activity – play. …… Movements are repeated, typically with novel variations.” Play provides a source of physical activity that can promote development of bones and muscles (Pellegrini and Smith 1998) a mechanism for generating variable neural activity and proprioceptive feedback to promote neural plasticity (van Praag, Shubert, Zhao & Gage, 2005).” “Learning to learn entails immense amounts of variable experiences over a very long time. But this presents no real problem for motor development. By 3.5 months of age infants have produced 3-6 million eye movements (Johnson, Amso & Slemmer 2003); at 11-13 months, they spend half of each waking hour interacting with objects (Karasarik, Tamis-LeMonda & Adolph, 2011); at 1-19 months they take 14,000 steps per day (Adolph et al, 2012).” “Now researchers are inundated with evidence that motor experience can facilitate developmental change in perceptual, cognitive and social domains.”

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Walter Solomon is the father of Robert, the autistic boy who is the first subject of the book. He was educated at St Paul’s School, London and has a Masters degree in economics from Cambridge. He is a passionate advocate of the Waldon Approach, works with developmentally delayed children and adults in three different locations in Israel. He lives in Zur Hadassah a small town in a beautiful wine growing area in the Jerusalem hills.