One of the principles underlying the Baby College programme is that a child’s neurodevelopment is key to maximising learning capabilities now and later on at school. This involves two aspects: the replacement of infant reflexes with adult responses and the development of the essential balance skills.
What are Infant Reflexes?
As an adult we all know the reflex reaction of the doctor hitting our knee with a hammer or of the “gasp” reflex ─ the sharp intake of breath when a warm shower suddenly turns cold. It’s an automatic response that you cannot control.
Baby survival: Infants have reflexes too. These are automatic, are in-built, and are designed to ensure they survive the important first months of life (such as rooting: baby turning head, pursing lips in readiness for food).
Birth process: A set of reflexes are developed in-utero and some are specifically designed to deal with the traumas of the (natural) birth process itself.
Replacement: It’s absolutely vital that the infant reflexes whether formed in-utero, shortly after birth or in the next few months are replaced by the more mature adult responses. If the majority have not been replaced by six or 12 months they will interfere with the child’s neurodevelopment and potential to learn. All should be gone by 18 months (although may still be seen during sleep).
Natural: In many cases the reflex replacement happens naturally but it is not an automatic process.
How can our Baby College Exercises Help?
At Baby College we use a specific set of natural, neurological and sensory exercises that encourage the process of replacement: these are repeated in each class to help ensure correct development of the infant brain.
Balance/Vestibular: The first of all the senses to develop is vestibular (in-built gyroscope: semi-circular canals). It is vital for posture, movement, a sense of where the child is in space, time, motion, depth and a sense of self. All other sensations pass through the balance mechanism in the brain stem and then on to the specialised region higher up in the brain. All senses that a child will depend on for learning are linked to vestibular (hence the importance of balance exercises in Baby College).
Repetitive: At Baby College we encourage the development of the whole sensory system through a series of exercises that are repetitive. Why? Because that is how we learn. It is only the constant repetition that leads to the positive building of the correct neural pathways in the brain: this practise means that more mature patterns can take over from the infant patterns until everything becomes automatic.
Education: Schools still see high rates of problems in the classroom: not the obvious learning difficulties such as autism but of children who perform poorly. They cannot catch a ball, hold a pencil correctly, sit still, are clumsy, have poor balance, a poor sense of self-awareness or rhythm.
Children naturally work at perfecting skills such as balance by skipping, jumping, and spinning. The most difficult skill is to sit still: only those who have achieved correct development can do this then they can concentrate on learning.
Baby College aims to promote correct neurodevelopment so that children can perform to their potential. Adult responses need to be put in place to provide a firm foundation for all learning.