Friday, September 02, 2005

Something Different: Using your fingers correctly

Should you make your baby into a signing freak?

There's a reason why children who were forced to take spanish classes, math tutorials, and riding lessons when they were 3-years old don't grow up to be brilliant geniuses. There's a reason why playing Mozart to your belly button doesn't cause a baby Bill Gates to pop out of your womb.

Normal brain development is controlled by tightly-regulated-genetic signals and codes. Although there is room for plasticity, your ability to control your child's cognitive outcome is limited. If you think about it, there is a significant evolutionary reason for why this is so. If every environmental trigger had the capacity to drastically alter brain development, the likelihood of things going wrong would increase and endanger the survival of the species.

This is not to say that you can't bring a child who is working below their potential or who has brain abnormalities up to normal or above normal functioning. There are many ways to hijack systems or push systems to function normally when something has gone wrong. Many have seen your hard work pay off with your own children. Obviously, if your child has an impairment requiring them to sign as they mature, then starting early may be a good idea. If your child is "normal", however, I wonder about the cost versus benefit of such training. Most parents I know already non-verbally communicate with their infant, and children learn language by being exposed to it, by hearing it and being forced to use it. My concern is that focusing on non-verbal communication takes away from verbal skill development. Moreover, such training eats away at parents' funds; these lessons and books aren't free. Besides, aren't children supposed to be chewing on their fingers, releasing that viscous goo you find smeared on mommy's and daddy's work clothes? How can they sign and slime at the same time?

Loving your child and letting them be a child so they can develop on their own trumps over-zealous-parental-brain manipulation. I realize this isn't a very scientific analysis of the issue--I'm just feeling like keeping this on the non-hardcore side.

17 Comments:

At 10:38 PM, Blogger trisha said...

I was so sick of all of the "Teach Your Child Russian While Still in Your Womb" videos and whatnot when I was pregnant.

Though, while in the womb, I did notice R moved around like crazy when he heard Neil Diamond. However, I couldn't determine whether he was wriggling with joy or was at his wits' end. Do fetuses have wits about them?

There is such a huge market for that crap...the black and white mobiles, the videos, books, subliminal cds...shit.

We should all use the money we would normally use to by Fetus Improvement Products to buy pre-natal care for impoverished mothers-to-be. I would think pre-natal vitamins would actually help a fetus more than in-utero trombone lessons.

 
At 10:39 PM, Blogger trisha said...

Hey, you don't usually post at night....what's up?

 
At 9:39 AM, Blogger Edie said...

As a mother of two toddlers, I found this post very interesting. I tried very hard with my first to do all the things my nurturing-babybook advocated, and it left me exhausted. My baby was still bored, and he was still a baby. Of course, now he's a very bright and responsive little 3 year-old, but I don't know how much my hard work had to do with that.

Do you think that traumatic births can determine personality? If a mother is badly injured and the baby spends a lot of early time away from her, how much does this affect/impair long-term social development, in your opinion?

 
At 10:33 AM, Blogger she falters to rise said...

Trisha: I'm not sure if a fetus has its wits. There are probably some that have more wits about them than some adults we know, but it's all relative, I guess. I'm bored tonight so I decided to post.

Your point about using the money for prenatal care is a tremendous one. While Mozart may not make a big difference, vitamin deficiency certainly will. Many people don't realize that the risk of acquiring all sorts of long term impairments (schizophrenia, for instance) increases and nutrition and prenatal care decreases.

Edie: There's a a lot of controversy over the effects of separating a baby from its mother early with regards to cognitive and or emotional outcome. There are some prominent researchers that would have you to believe that a robot could raise your child without any negative impact on development. In rats, this type of separation is extraordinarily stressful, and such stress is known to impact brain development. It's unclear in humans as to what extent the functional change will be over time after such stressors. There are a lot of studies looking into this--the data, however, are confusing most likely due to the inability to control for a lot of other factors (paternal involvement, socio-econmical status, genetics, etc.).

A traumatic birth in which the trauma includes physiological damage to the baby (oxygen deprivation, etc.) can and usually does have a negative impact on brain development and long term cognitive outcome, although the extent of the impairment is variable as is the ability to overcome/compensate for such damage.

 
At 10:45 AM, Blogger trisha said...

We had a traumatic birth with oxygen deprivation. Luckily, the nurses held and stroked Robbie during the hours I wasn't able to be with him. I mean, I think that helped. It didn't hurt.

 
At 10:53 AM, Blogger she falters to rise said...

Oh, hon--it's been a long, hard road for you hasn't it. There is no evidence to suggest that that type of separation would have any negative impact at all. Of course it helped and all of your subsequent love has helped every step of the way.

 
At 11:42 AM, Blogger Edie said...

It is true that socio-economic conditions into which a child is born are of paramount influence on that child's development. In poverty, a baby who had that sort of medical setback at birth, an injured mother, etc., has a much tougher time. Interestingly, here C-sections are much, much more often performed on poor mothers receiving Medicaid than on financial stable Americans, because medical care is after all a big business. Why not do a C-section on an uninformed pregnant woman, since it can be scheduled well in advance? These women spend a long time recovering, and it is quite difficult to hold your baby, breastfeed, etc., with a large fresh surgical wound. Anyway, thanks for your thoughts!

 
At 2:42 PM, Blogger trisha said...

For me, breastfeeding was not difficult with my large surgical wound (and they pulled a 10 pound baby out of me).

My hospital, in New hampshire, was completely reluctant to even give me a C-Section. They doped me up on Morphine for 9 hours, telling me to get some sleep. Ha! I was in labor for 32 hours. This hospital was (is) so proud of their 11% c-section births record, and did all they could to not do one on me, even though...

 
At 3:43 PM, Blogger Edie said...

Even though it might have been much easier and better for the health of you and baby to have performed one sooner. Every mother is a veteran with her own heroic and sometimes tragic experiences. I'm sorry that you endured that.

 
At 9:21 PM, Blogger trisha said...

Edie, yes! And thank you, very much!

My son is 4 1/2 and still cannot talk. We will always wonder.

I like you, edie.

 
At 9:54 PM, Blogger Edie said...

I like you, too, trisha. By chance, and I know this may sound downright crazy, do you have a negative bloodtype?

 
At 12:05 AM, Blogger 21st Century Mom said...

Yay for this post! I never fell for that 'make your baby a genius' crap and I'm glad I didn't. My kids are who they are and they have as much ambition and intelligence as they have. My job was to stay out of the way or provide support as needed. It seemed to work fine.

 
At 12:52 AM, Blogger trisha said...

Yes, I do. I think I am a-neg. Or ab-neg. And I am Rh-neg, too. And yet, wildly optimistic:)

Why do you ask?

 
At 9:24 AM, Blogger Edie said...

I am a-negative, and had to have a shot in my hip at 28 weeks. You probably had that, too. I'm just wondering. I don't know your child's health, so maybe this doesn't apply. My boys were both extremely colicky and the older boy is a little different, still has that high-pitched scream if he gets his head bumped. That sort of behavior that would probably be diagnosed as mild autism/related spectrum behavior. There were a lot of rumors churning around at least for a while about thimerosal, the mercury-based preservative manufactured by Eli Lilly used in almost all shots, but particularly in that gestational shot and its connection to the increase in autism, colic, "misery and unhappiness disorder" in newborns, and other developmental problems. Now, I'm not a scientologist! I think vaccinations are essential. But medical science will never advance closer to eradicating misery and suffering than the profit system allows... The issue of child development is too complex to narrow it down to medical treatments, parenting styles, etc., when these things are dependent on the larger structure of society.

 
At 1:04 PM, Blogger she falters to rise said...

I'm negative too--my blood that is.

It's really odd that they waited so long to do your C-section, Trisha. I hate when hospitals do stupid things so that they can maintain their "numbers".

It's so hard to predict what will impact a child's long-term outcome. There are children that suffer greatly from prenatal exposure to antiepileptic drugs, yet others seem to do fine having no apparent problems as the years go by. It really tells you that there is a lot going on during development and that there are all sorts of things (some controlable, others not so much) that can impact a child's life.

 
At 3:58 PM, Blogger Edie said...

My lover, who has (self-diagnosed) social anxiety disorder, told me that he had a traumatic birth. Somehow, at least this is what he was told, the actual placenta ruptured when his mother's water broke, and both of them nearly died in a taxi cab. He said the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck when he was born. Of course, he only tells me this from what his father told him. That was the thought prompting my earlier question.

 
At 8:12 AM, Blogger she falters to rise said...

Yes, that type of trauma can definitely have some pretty bad outcomes. People born with their cord wrapped around their neck can have minor to extensive brain damage, develop seizures, or may be paralyzed or comatose for the rest of their lives. It all depends on how much oxygen deprivation occurred before the infant was made stable. It would be really hard to tell if that had anything to do with developing a social anxiety disorder since many people who experienced no childhood traumas develop such problems.

 

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