“As human beings, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable each one of us really is, that each of us has something that no one else has – or ever will have – something inside that is unique to all time. It’s our job to encourage each other to discover that uniqueness and to provide ways of developing its expression.”
– Mr. Fred Rogers
We’ve finally arrived at the third core principle that we see playing out in child brain development. This principle says that each child is unique.
If you’ve been following along from the beginning, you know that the three laws that govern child brain development along with the three core principles we can easily observe during that development comprise the scientific underpinning of everything we do at BrainFit Kids.
If you are new to BFK then here’s a quick recap. I recommend you read through these in order so you understand what follows.
- First law – Function Determines Structure.
- Second law – Frequency, Intensity, and Duration.
- Third law – “Where there is a need, there is a facility”.
- First core principle – Brain development is Progressive.
- Second core principle – Brain development is Synergistic.
- Third core principle – now you’re all caught up!
So, the third core principle tells us that each child is a unique individual. And this sets up a bit of a paradox! The science of child brain development is universal. It applies to all children at all times. It has done so since the beginning of our species, Homo sapiens. It will continue to do so in the future because it is built into our biology. And yet, despite the fact that we all follow the same ancient pathway during the course of our development, there are a multitude of outcomes! Why is that?
The answer is found in the third core principle. Each child is a genetically unique individual. Never before in human history has that child’s combination of DNA been seen… and it will never be seen again. Think about that! Ever get the feeling that you are not so special? Well, get over it and take a bow! Human history may not be so ancient in geologic terms but we’ve been around for a pretty long time, about 300,000 years. And yet, not once in all of that time has there been another you. The you that is you has never been seen before and will never be seen again.
Each child’s unique genetic inheritance results in certain biological and physiological strengths and weaknesses that exist only in him or her. Sometimes, especially when looking at children who struggle with developmental challenges, we have a tendency to blame the difficulties on genetic weaknesses. Genetic inheritance is often seen as a prison cell trapping the child in a cycle of failure from which he cannot escape.
Science and forty plus years of clinical experience tells us that this is wrong because it ignores the reality that child brain development, and the resultant development of functional ability, is dependent on the interaction of genetics with the environment. So, while it is true that a child may inherit certain vulnerabilities, it is also true that everything in the environment and every developmental opportunity has a direct effect on the development and organization of the brain. We must always remember that biology is not destiny.
Genetics is a starting point. It is a springboard, not a prison cell. Genetics must interact with the environment and therein lies the possibility for a more compassionate response to the pain that children with developmental challenges experience. We can’t change genetics but we have complete control over the environment. There is no need to look for a magic bullet because the magic is already in the brain of every child.
“Today you are You, that is truer than true.
There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”
– Dr. Seuss
Of course, there is more than just our genetics that makes each of us unique. That is simply the starting point. We are each born into different families with parents who are unique in their own right. Some of us have lots of brothers and sisters, some a few, some none. For those born into a family with several children there is the matter of birth order. The developmental experience of child number one is not the same as the experience of child number two, or three, or four. How can it be?
So, the point here is that each child will start with his or her unique genetic blueprint, mix that in with his or her unique set of environmental opportunities, and develop functional ability in such a way that it expresses his or her unique personality, interests, and gifts.
It’s instructive to look at this in terms of the development of mobility. We can take two children and give each of them the same amount of opportunity to learn how to move, and the same amount of opportunity to use the various stages of mobility (tummy crawling, then creeping, then walking) to get around.
While each child will follow a path that we all follow, provided we do nothing to interfere, how each child follows that path will be unique to each of them. For example, how long it takes for a child to learn to walk will be unique for each child even though there is an expected time frame for the development of that ability. Some children spend a few weeks creeping before they walk, some children spend a few months. Of course, what is important is that children follow the process, not how quickly they get to the end result.
Now, extrapolate what we see in this example from the development of mobility to the development of all of the other functions. Think of it in terms of the development of vision, hearing and understanding, tactile ability, language, and manual ability. I think you can easily see that, while each child is born with extraordinary potential, how each child manifests that potential will be determined by the delicate interplay of their unique genetic endowment with their unique environmental experience.
There is no one alive who is Youer than You! That’s a beautiful thing!