Who? Who will the curriculum serve? Why not young infants?

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The GOOD PLAY CURRICULUM is designed to meet the needs of older infants and toddlers one through three years of age because research shows that older toddlers, who have previously manipulated and handled objects intentionally (e.g. feeding themselves, playing independently with toys) decrease the frequency with which these acts are performed. Further studies of older-age toddlers with visual/multiple handicaps show a lack of intentionality and a reduction of general interest in exploring wider social and intellectual environments associated with the second year of life. Thus, these toddlers maintain more dependent and less like their non-handicapped age-mates who are increasingly independent and less egocentric. Interestingly, the emergence of language and the ability to "label" or name objects associated with present or past experiences does not seem delayed, giving rise to the theory that social and cognitive skills are heavily influenced by contextual factors, while language is rooted in innate hard-wired (genetic) characteristics.

Toddlers who have a visual/multiple handicap alter very specific previously learned behaviors. They lose interest in familiar or new objects. They refuse to self-feed; they limit their ability to search or scan for new and independent activities. As a result, they lag considerably behind their sighted peers in imitative play, "pretend" play, or substituting objects for other objects in order to show "make believe" mental ideas.

Toddlers with visual/multiple handicaps seem to be especially delayed in using objects to represent familiar events or objects in the absence of the objects themselves.

The targeted group is thinkers, toddler thinkers, preverbal children 1 through 3 years of age who have not explained to us how they think! Yet we know by studying psychological states and behavioral actions that toddlers do think. They seem to think by recognition of people, places, and things. They think in terms of motility and expressiveness that can be seen in the sheer numbers of times social and intellectual events take place. They seem to make mental "maps" of objects from their own egocentric perspective. They may make mental images that are not pictures, but purely unique representations that they then store away for future use. According to research on memory, toddlers "re-invent" or "re-imagine" every object every time it is seen, heard, or touched. Objects and events (however often they occur) appear in the mind's eye as new or separate events. All possibilities deserve to be acted upon, because at least we do know the acquisition process is different than adults.

We know that young infants recognize absences of objects and people as "permanent" disappearances because this mental activity is accompanied by personal distress and discomfort beginning at 6 or 7 months. This violation of learned attachment and security may tend to extend to older toddlers as they construct a view of reality in which they view the reappearance of objects, as well as the disappearance of objects as (two) discrete and separate events.

Objects, therefore, are new, unfamiliar, and subject to much scrutiny and curiosity each time they appear. These "discoveries" are visually-guided during the second and third years of life. Excitement and arousal are associated with toddlers' drive to discover and search the environment. There is an intensely active interest in experiences that are both familiar and novel to the toddler earlier.

Does this mean impressions of objects and events are a combination of action and thought or a combination of sight, sound, touch, or a coordination of sights and sounds?

The younger the toddler, the more he or she sees events and actions only from the perspective of self, thus all elements of the environment are viewed as extensions of the self. All children, as they detach, become increasingly detached, decentered. Studies show a gradual progression in the third year towards recognition of others as distinctly separate from themselves. This curriculum serves as an antecedent to that decentering. It is for the self-centered thinking toddler with visual/multiple handicaps.

Ask Dr. Susan