During routine childhood examinations there are many complex topics that are discussed. We always start with the basics of growth and development.
An important aspect of childhood development deals with social awareness and response. In young children we watch the interaction with family and peers. This is to see how young patients initiate behaviors and also how their reactions change in response to other’s actions and a variable environment. This type of assessment does not drop off from the list of discussion topics as children age and attend school. Rather it becomes a more complex conversation as children interact more and more with the external world and are not in circumstances under the protective control of concerned adults.
Cell phones, iPODs and other multimedia devices dominate many youngster’s days. It is not uncommon for children or teens to walk into their visit with me having headphones on, or to be actively texting on a cell phone. I immediately ask kids to put these aside for the visit. It’s important that I have their attention for their examination, be it a sick or a well visit. I am surprised how often this request is met with resistance. In order to bridge this gap in understand, I share with the kids my concern for their level of alertness and ability to respond to their surroundings.
The skill of having both self and surrounding awareness is one that parents can teach children from early on. Parents should encourage children of all ages to watch what is happening in front and on the sides of them. They should be aware of their personal space, and should take stock of the people near them, and of the things going on around them. Being tuned in to a device can have a negative impact on a child that may not hear a car coming or notice a person walking closely behind them,
It is very concrete to express this concern with a physical exam as I try to involve children in how their bodies feel both during healthy and unhealthy times. This sense of self, body, and environment is a constantly changing balance that we all must respond to.
Next month we will present several common environments and exercises that parents can use to emphasize and develop a child’s sense of his surroundings.