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Understanding the Development of Children and Young Person

The sequence and rate of each aspect of development from birth – 19 years

Child development is a process every child goes through. The sequence of a child’s development, also known as developmental milestones are divided into five different aspects: Physical; Social, Emotional and behavioural; Communication and language; Intellectual and cognitive.


0 – 3 Years

The physical development between the ages of 0-3 years is very rapid. At birth, babies depend on reflexes for movements to allow them to feed or grasp whenever they touch something. By the age of one; they have a lot more control over their bodies. In this stage, they are beginning to crawl, shuffle, pull or push on things to stand.

Between 1 and 2 years walking will begin and toys will be pulled or pushed along while walking.

They enjoy attempting to feed themselves with finger foods. Waving goodbye becomes fun they will begin to point to what they want and shake their head to mean ‘no’.

Between the ages of 2 and 3 marks on paper will progress to scribbles as they begin to use pencils, etc. Balls start to be kicked and thrown. Bricks will be built into larger towers than before and will begin to experiment with liquids in play by pouring.

3 – 7 Years

At 3 years children start to gain more independence. Their mobility and climbing skills will be advancing as they run, jump, catch, walk up and down stairs etc. Dexterity increases with small objects like puzzles, threading beads etc. Dressing and undressing will be assisted but more cooperative.

They will be developing their gross and fine motor skills: Running, Jumping, Catching, throwing and aiming, building, climbing, pedalling, use of scissors, holding a pencil to draw and colour threading small beads sewing stitches etc.

They will have more pencil control and will begin to copy letters and shapes, and draw people.  Ball games will develop more structure as they start to kick with aim. They will begin to learn to hop on one foot, then the other and also to skip.

They can dress themselves up, do and undo buttons and zips etc.  Writing becomes more fluent as copying letter shapes has progressed to words and sentences with greater pencil control.

Confidence has increased when playing outside in climbing, jumping from heights and riding a bike.

At 7 years children begin to enjoy playing team games as they are now hitting a ball, running, jumping, skipping, swinging.

7 – 12 Years

They grow taller and thinner, losing their baby teeth. They may begin to have hobbies and interest which means they are more practised in some areas e.g. football, singing, dancing etc. Girls begin to show the early signs of puberty.

12 – 16 Years

Physical development during this period is very different for each child. As some may be just beginning to mature physically, others may have already reached full physical maturity.

Boys begin to go through puberty while many girls would have completed the process and have regular periods. At the end of this stage, most boys will be taller than most girls on the average.

16 – 19 Years

Girls may have reached maturity but boys continue to grow until their mid 20’s


At 3 months children begin to gain more independence by recognising familiar voices; like parents voice and they stop crying when they hear them.  They later begin to respond to smiles and make noises as well.

By 18 months they can make one – two syllable words like mama; baba; dada; bye; bye-bye; out; etc. They have a vocabulary of 3 to 20 words and can join in simple rhymes and enjoy books.

At age 3, they should have a vocabulary of about 300 words. They use more adult forms of speech, making proper sentences and are able to deliver simple messages

3 -7 Years

Between 5 – 7 years old their vocabulary increases to 1500 – 4000 words. They develop early reading skills. Show interest in more complex books, stories and poetry.

7 – 12 Years

They have a very wide vocabulary of 4000 – 10000 words. Their reading and writing skills become much more advanced: they spell more accurately, they can do joined-up writing, know how to use punctuations, can read a comprehension and answer questions. Appreciate jokes as their language knowledge has become more advanced. They can use their knowledge of reading and writing to access information may on a letter; dictionary; encyclopaedia; email; Internet; computers etc.

Intellectual and Cognitive Development

0 – 3 Years

Babies start by recognising parents and concentrating on familiar voices. Become aware of different smells. They put things in their mouth to explore. They respond to moving objects and respond to bright colours and bold images. They see everything in relation to themselves (egocentric).

Between 18 months and 2 years, they are able to recognise objects from pictures and books, point to what they want, match colours and shapes, do jigsaw puzzles, follow simple instructions, concentrate for longer, show preference and start to make choice.

Between 2 to 3 years they continue to imitate other older children and adults. Develop an understanding of big and small, enjoy imaginative play, shows some awareness of right and wrong.

3 – 7 Years

At 3 years they learn about basic concepts through play. They experiment with colours shapes and texture. They can recall the simple sequence of events and follow simple instructions.

Between the ages of 5 and 7 they become more curious. Develop an interest in reading for themselves. Their concentration becomes much longer.

7 – 12 Years

Enjoy board games and other games with rules. See additional people’s point of view. Enjoy number works but still needs real objects to help a mathematical process. Interested in more complex construction activities like Lego.

12 – 16 Years

12-16 year old know the difference between real and imaginary. They develop more creative abilities. Reads more complex text with improved comprehension and can write much better.

Understand more abstract maths and science like physics, chemistry, algebra etc.

16 – 19 Years

They will begin to think of their future in terms of occupations, relationships etc.  They will focus on things they have excelled in and start to make their way in the world.

Social, Emotional, Behavioural and Moral Development

0 – 3 Years

When babies are born they cry to communicate most of their needs. As they grow older, they become very attached to their parents /carer. They experience instant extreme emotions like very happy, very scared, very angry etc. By 9 months they know a stranger and they become very wary of them.

By 18 months they want to help adults and imitate all their activities

3 – 7 Years

Between 3-5 years old they develop their identity. Begin to play with their friends and socialise using imaginative play. They enjoy being given responsibility e.g. helper and want to please and seek approval from adults. Argues with other children but is quick to forgive and forget. Still has an outburst of cry when tired, stressed or frustrated.

At 7 they cooperate with others and take turns. They may copy unwanted behaviour like swearing, biting etc to gain adult attention. They become more aware of the feelings of others and comfort others when they are upset, unwell or hurt themselves. They may have an imaginary friend. They may lose their confidence if they fail.

7 – 12 Years

They have at least 1 friend and they enjoy the company of other children. They sometimes like to have their own space. They become less concerned with adult approval and become more concerned with peer approval.

They are still very possessive but less egocentric.  Aware of the wider environment e.g. Weather, plants, animals, people in other parts of the world.

They can measure up their achievements against others and this may lead to a sense of failure if they feel that they don’t measure up.

12 – 16 Years

They can be very supportive towards others experiencing difficulties. They may be strongly influenced by role models in the media. Emotional changes due to puberty. They can anticipate people’s reactions and consider the consequence of their own actions. They may have strong opinion or beliefs leading to arguments with adults and peers; may hold grudges and find it difficult to forgive and forget.

16 – 19 Years

They become adults but still need advice and guidance as they lack experience and they experience emotional maturity at different rates.

  •  The difference between the sequence of development and the rate of development and why the difference is important.

It is important to know the difference between the sequence and the rate of development, as it helps to identify where children need help or may be at risk of having a special education need.

The sequence is the order that development happens E.g. A baby’s physical development may begin with rolling over, then sit up, crawl, walk, run. Another baby may sit up, walk, run, and miss out rolling over and be crawling. Even though elements are missed the development still proceeds in an expected pattern.

The rate is the speed at which development happens. E.g. one baby may achieve walking unaided at 10 months; another may accomplish walking at 12 months and another at 16 months.

The main difference between the sequence and rate of development is that the sequence is the order in which development takes place, while the rate is the time frame given for the average development of a child at a certain age.

It also helps the teacher to plan and prepare for the children who are at different stages of their development as a result of varying rates.

Understand the factors that influence children and young people’s development and how these affect practice

  •  How legislation and codes of practice relating to equality,  diversity and discrimination apply to own work role?

After birth, there are various aspects which can affect children and young people’s development. These include:

Generic Influence

Genetic information is what triggers a disability, for example, Down’s syndrome. This means that they may have an impairment of cognitive ability and physical growth so they will need extra support in daily activities. There may be conditions such as Asthma which will affect the child’s breathing. Children may get breathless taking part in physical activities and will have to use an inhaler to open their airways. A Child’s health will also be affected during pregnancy if the mother is taking drugs. This could result in premature birth and low birth weight which can then lead to a slower development rate. Even general colds or viruses could have an effect. There may also be problems which are set off by certain conditions such as the environment. These conditions can affect all aspects of a child or young person’s development.


Children with a physical disability may be subject to discrimination at school for the reason that they could be treated differently than the rest of the children.  They may be bullied or pushed out by other students which will affect their self-confidence and in turn affect their learning capabilities and development.  Conditions such as Spina Bifida have a physical effect on children and their development. Spina Bifida occurs when the baby’s spinal cord does not develop properly during pregnancy. As a result, the child’s legs may be partially or fully paralysed and they may have a curvature of the spine, difficulties in controlling their bowel and bladder and deformities in bones and joints.

Sensory impairment –Visual or hearing

If a child has a hearing problem this would influence their development, it could affect their speech and communication and may make them feel they are unable to join in with other children’s games if they can’t communicate properly with them. Visual impairment can also influence a Child’s development they are unable to watch and learn from what others are doing. They may have difficulty learning their way around new environments such as a new preschool. As each area of learning is co-dependent on others a child with a disability could have delays in all areas of learning so would need support in all areas to help them minimise delays.

Learning difficulties are also a factor that influences a child’s development. Children with learning difficulties will need extra support with certain areas of development and may develop a low self-esteem because they get annoyed with themselves for not being able to do something, such as a simple numeracy problem, or read a book.

  •  How children and young people’s development is influenced by external factors?

Poverty and deprivation:

Poor housing conditions may affect the child’s health and chances of developing through play if they live in a small over the crowded house. The house may have damp (mould) not enough finances to provide adequate heating in the winter months, which will affect the child’s health. Lack of or unsuitable furniture/equipment –

For example, the child may not have a proper bed or blankets this will affect the child’s health if they cannot get enough rest/sleep, no safety equipment for babies/young children – stair gate, plug socket covers etc. which could cause the baby/child to have accidents or come to physical harm.

Family environment and background:

So many circumstances go in families which may affect the child. They include: parents separating, having new partners, break-down in a relationship, unsafe community, losing a family member or job loss etc.

Looked after/ care status:

Children in care can sometimes be moved around regularly and this may affect their development.  They may have separation and attachment issues and may sometimes not want to go to school. Socially they may be unable to make friends, they may experience academic regression from missing school on a regular basis and emotionally they may become very fragile and unstable.

  • How theories of development and frameworks to support development influence current practice?


Piaget influenced many teaching techniques such as the focus on the process of the child’s thinking and the active role of the learner.   Piaget’s focus on the process of the child thinking promoted the development of the stages of cognitive development. Teachers use the stages in today’s classroom as a way to gauge a child’s cognitive functioning. This permits the development of activities and learning experiences that are at the correct cognitive development stage for the child’s ability to learn.

Piaget recognised that children must be self-initiated and actively involved in learning activities. A current application of this concept today can be found, many of the national curriculum material include interactive activities and even educational software for the child to engage in self-controlled learning.


Theorists such as John Watson, B.F. Skinner contributed greatly to the behaviourist perspective of development. Behaviourists believe the child’s environment shapes learning and behaviour; in fact, human behaviour, development, and learning are thought of as reactions to the environment. This perspective leads many families, schools, and educators to assume that young children develop and acquire new knowledge by reacting to their surroundings.

Many environmentalist-influenced educators and parents believe that young children learn best through role activities, such as reciting the alphabet over and over, copying letters, and tracking numbers.

This viewpoint is evident in the classrooms where young children are expected to sit at tables and listen attentively to their teachers.

Operant Conditioning

It simply means if we get praised for doing something, we tend to do it again but if we get told off, we tend not to do it again. Negative and positive reinforcement, this theory can be seen in current practice where teachers give stickers, praise and reward for good behaviour and disapproval, time out and ignoring for unwanted behaviour.

Understand how to monitor children and young people’s development and interventions that should take place if this is not expected pattern

  •  How to monitor children and young people’s development using different methods?

‘Accurate observations and assessments are essential to effective educational practices.’

We observe so we can recognise children and young people’s skills and abilities and identify their needs. This will make planning for their future development much more specific to the individual need.


Observations can be taken during playtime or in lessons. They record what the child is doing in a subjective way. It’s most appropriate to use this method when a child’s development is causing concern.

Assessment Framework

This is the way that children are being assessed to determine whether they are in need, what those needs are and how those needs can be met.

These are usually used with the class teacher and the SENCO.

An example is the Foundation Phase Child Development Profile where at age 3 when children begin nursery they will be assessed in the 7 development areas. Observations will be recorded and this will be used to make provision for children according to their needs.

Information from colleagues and carers

Parents/carers who know the child and colleagues expertise are invaluable, especially when planning for social and academic success for pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities. If we are concerned about child’s development it’s good to ask/share information.

Standard measurements

These include health assessments, reasoning tests, cognitive aptitude tests (CATs.  They are used to establish where children are developmentally compared to their peers.

  •  The reasons why children and young people’s development may not follow the expected pattern.

There are many factors that may cause a child or young person’s development to deviate from expected patterns.   These factors may be external or personal in nature and include disability, emotional influences, physical influences, environmental influences, cultural influences, social influences, learning needs and communication skills.

Disability can affect a child or young person in several areas of development at the same time but early support might help minimise the effects of the disability.

Emotional reasons, if a child is not settled and having good attachments they are more likely to have low confidence and self-esteem they might not try new tasks and have a lack of motivation.

Physical development might be affected by genetics this can mean physical growth difficulties or maybe the child might be a slower learner.

Environmental as in outcome 2.2 there are many reasons that can affect a child’s development like poverty, where a child lives, education and their family structure.

Culturally how people bring up their children can differ vastly like in China a girl is deemed second class to a boy the boy is worth trying to a boat but not a girl. Other cultures have restrictions on children’s freedoms this can adversely affect the child’s development.

Social reasons are that for children born into poverty and families whose parents are separated are likely to have negative effects of children’s development or if a family might give less time to activities which aid children’s developments like a lack of play this can also affect child development.

Learning difficulties children might have these due to genetic diseases, birth difficulties, and cognitive difficulties or might just have difficulties with writing or reading.

Communication, as mentioned in unit 075 for medical reasons like hearing or tongue-tied, can cause communication problems children who have communication needs find it hard to express themselves and can show aggressive behaviour when frustrated. Children who experience communication needs might have problems with reading and writing.

  •  How may disability affect development?

If they have a physical disability, it may affect how they interact with their peers if they become withdrawn and/or isolated. It may also affect their behavioural development if they become angry and frustrated.

Sometimes fit people can think that disabled people aren’t able to do certain activities thereby limiting them to what we feel they can do. As professionals working with children we should provide equal opportunity and not restrict the child only to activities we feel they are capable of doing.

  •  How different types of interventions can promote positive outcomes for children and young people where development is not following the expected pattern.

According to the Department of Education’s Early Intervention Paper (2010), “Early intervention means intervening as soon as possible to tackle problems that have already emerged for children and young people”. There are different professionals who come into school to discuss ways the child with additional needs can be supported. They include:

Speech Therapist: The speech therapist works in partnership with parents, teachers and other professionals involved, to help children develop their communication skills to the best of their ability, and reach potential booth educationally and socially. For some children, particularly those with speech sound difficulties, this may involve weekly sessions for a period of them. For other children, the input may be at the level of working with parents and professionals to set appropriate goals and monitor progress.

Social worker: They come in when parents ask for help or if there is a concern about a child in the home environment. Sometimes schools contact social services directly if they are worried about a child’s home environment. They also work with the school regarding ‘Looked After Children’.

Physiotherapist: They work with the parents and classroom assistants. They give advice and set targets on how pupils can develop their gross motor skills.

Following the agreed period of support, the child’s progress will be reviewed in partnership with parents/carers and others and further recommendations and actions will be adopted according to the child’s changing needs.

Psychologist: An Educational Psychologist may come in if the child does not make any progress following interventions by a speech therapist. They will carry out an assessment of the child which uses different tools, techniques and approaches that draw on relevant psychological theory and research. The purpose of the assessment would be to understand what is happening to the child, who is concerned, why there is a problem and what can be done to make a difference to the situation.

Understand the importance of early intervention to support the speech, language and communication needs of children and young people

Analyse the importance of early identification of speech, language and communication delays and disorders and the potential risks of late recognition

Early identification of speech, language and communication delay is extremely important as children may be supported to improve their skills and they may then be able to organise their thought and express themselves.

Language development is so important if a child has a problem communicating they may become frustrated and this may affect other aspects of their development including social, emotional, behavioural, moral, cognitive and intellectual.

If delayed language acquisition is diagnosed early enough, professionals can target the child’s needs and support him/her in the best possible way so that they don’t out on milestones in their development.

Outside agencies can be informed and the child will receive the specialist support they require.

Risks could include: the child not fulfilling their potential; experiencing problems with learning and understanding information; struggling to be independent; child being isolated and withdrawn; difficulty in or loss of interest in making and keeping friendships; lack of motivation; depression; low self-esteem and confidence; inability to express feeling appropriately; possible regression of behaviour; separation anxiety and anti-social behaviour.

How multi-agency teams work together to support speech, language and communication?

Children who have speech, language and communication problems often have different professionals who work with them to support them. They sometimes come together as a team to discuss the need of the child and how these needs can be met as the guiding principle is that all services should work together closely in the best interest of the child.

They would include:

Speech and Language Therapist

Refer to the previous section.


The school’s SENCO manages SEN provision in schools. They work with different professionals who support the child, to ensure that the child’s appointments and paperwork are up to date.

Autism Advisory teacher

They come to school to advise on how best to support children who have been diagnosed with autism.

How play and activities are used to support the development of speech, language and communication?

Games: When children play games they learn to take turns and communicate with each other. They express how they feel about what the other child has to do or did and sometimes they try to support the other child if they think they do not understand the game and it’s a great way for them to develop their communication. Their vocabulary will improve.

Puppets: When children interact with puppets and make them talk and interact with one another, they are also involved in the dramatic play. This type of play is excellent for developing language and for expressing feelings.

Pictures: Pictures are used alongside words to make communication easier to understand. In fact, in my placement school, the reading scheme that is used starts the children off with ‘picture only’ books so the children are encouraged to talk about the pictures in the book and make their own story up and ask questions.

Technology: Computer programmes (apps and games), interactive whiteboard, story tapes, CD’s are all ways of stimulating a child’s communication development. These days a lot of programmes are interactive and children can hear and respond to different applications made specially to help develop their language.

Understand the potential effects of transitions on children and young people’s development.

How different types of transitions can affect development


This usually comes from the children’s personal experiences in life.

Bereavement: a loss of carer, family member, pet or even toys (for much younger children) can affect children’s development. They may display frustration, aggression, anger, regression, withdrawal and other behavioural problems.

Divorce: Sometimes children may think it’s their fault that mum and dad are not together anymore. They may begin to hate themselves. Physically they may experience a loss of appetite and insomnia. They may not be able to concentrate in school and it may become challenging for them as they may be suddenly expected to become more independent.


This type of transition is a result of movement to a different location

Migrating: This is very stressful for children as they have to lose all their relationships (family and friends), start a new school, and possibly learn a new language, accent and culture. They may feel different to others (physical racial differences like skin colour; eye colour; hair colour) and too young to handle their feelings. They may become frustrated, hate their parents, be unable to settle in school and show behavioural problems.


This type of transition can be seen when children move to different learning framework.

From Foundation Phase to National Curriculum: In the Early Years Foundation Phase, children most have their learning experience through play. When they make that transition into National Curriculum, it has a huge effect on them as they begin to have formal ways of learning and less creative and expressive activities. They may show signs of anxiety, not wanting to go to school, not understanding why they have to be in school hence not engaging in the learning activities.


This is as a result of changes to our body due to physical growth and development or long-term medical conditions.

Puberty: Young people begin to experience puberty from early teenage. During that period a lot of hormonal changes take place in their body which results in physical body changes. They experience mood swings which can sometimes lead to behavioural problems or withdrawal. They may not like the way that they look or they may feel that they have reached maturity so they can decide what they want for themselves. Sometimes these decisions (taking harmful substances, getting pregnant and truancy) affect their development negatively and they are not able to achieve their full potential.

Evaluate the effect on children and young people of having positive relationships during periods of transition.

It makes it much easier for children to cope with transition when they have somebody who is supporting them positively so that they can continue to feel secured about other aspects of their life.

They know that someone is there that they can talk to about how they feel and talking about it may help them to cope better and settle down much quicker.

Nobody likes to go through a situation feeling that they are on their own and no one is supporting them. A positive relationship will reassure children that they are being cared for and supported.

They learn how to deal with stressful situations and become resilient. Their likelihood of low self-esteem/worth/confidence which often leads to depression in later life may be reduced.

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