True reading, writing, math readiness and ability to focus and self-regulate is a biological phenomenon. An example of a biological-based development would be losing a tooth, or beginning menstruation. We would never label a child with a “disability” if they were slow to achieve these milestones. Readiness for school requires much more than a child simply reaching the chronological age for school entry. To perform well in school, a child needs to be able to sit still, and to focus attention on one task without being distracted by irrelevant environmental stimuli. Most academic learning depends on basic skills becoming automatic at the physical level. For a child to communicate, speech as a skill is dependent upon coordinating the larynx, the pharynx, the tongue and the muscles at the front of the mouth. Reading depends largely on oculo-motor skills that involve the precise eye movements necessary to maintain a stable image on the page. Also one must be able to follow a line of print without the eyes 'jumping' or losing their place, and to adjust visual focus between different distances (like the blackboard and desk) at speed. Writing involves hand-eye coordination with the support of the postural system. These are physical abilities which are linked to the development and maturation of a child's uniquely unfolding biology, and require that a child has passed a number of benchmarks of sensory-motor integration and neurological maturity. By achieving these developmental benchmarks, a child will develop automatic, voluntary control over emotions, behavior, balance and physical skills. If this fails to develop, many aspects of learning can be affected negatively, even if the child has average or above average intelligence.
ATTENTION, BALANCE AND COORDINATION are the primary A, B, and C upon which all later academic learning depends (Sally Goddard Blythe, 2009).
When asking which benchmarks have been attained (Central Nervous System maturation), the following capacities are considered: • integration of early movement patterns (primitive reflexes) • postural control • balance - vestibular development • proprioception development – sense of self movement • body geography • integration of vertical and horizontal midline • establishment of laterality / dominance • eye, hand, and speech coordination / fine motor skills • visual perception and visual – motor integration • auditory discrimination, processing and phonemic awareness • well integrated sense of touch • well integrated sense of life / well-being
These steps represent a child's capacities or readiness for learning. They have an order and are common for every human being if a step is not sufficiently mature, then the next step becomes difficult to accomplish.
At Nimble Kids these benchmarks are included in the assessment.
The concept of maturational readiness for learning is not new. As early as 1947, educators noted that reading readiness seemed to coincide with the shedding of the first milk teeth and that individual variation in the timing of the eruption of the second tooth might be indicative of other aspects of neurological maturity related to reading readiness (Ames 1967). We now also know that boys are generally six months or up to a year slower in cerebral development than in girls. While there are variables, boys also tend to lose their teeth later than girls.
In 1999, researchers investigated whether it would be of value to include a short battery of neuro-developmental tests in the medical examination for children entering school. They found that there were significant links between neurological maturity and performance on cognitive psychological tests (Bax and Whitmore, 1999). Schools that use neuro-developmental programs, and that take learning readiness into account, have statistics to show how vastly these programs improve school performance - many learning problems simply never arise because the children are tested to see if they are ready for first grade work. Some include New Visions School in the U.S., The Learning Connections in Australia, and The Institute of Neuro-Physiological Psychology in England.
Ann Breslauer, has made educational history with the so-called Coronado Experiment. This experiment proved that a sensori-motor approach can be successfully implemented in the public schools to improve the children's performance skills. Yet, despite an increasing body of evidence to support the value of neuro-developmental milestones at the time of school entry, these tests have not been integrated into standard school pre-assessment programs.