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Early development leading to 'Continuant Behaviour' (Waldon)



At 6 weeks the child is already engaged in a great deal of movement. The arms, legs , head are all moving – at times quite vigorously – and at this time it should be noted that the movements are quite independent from one another.

Waldon doesn't consider the baby a single entity (an 'organism') until around 6 months of age; until that time each limb moves in its own reachable space, incidentally coming into contact with objects, including its own body.

From 6 months onwards the limbs increasingly work together.
Within the all-important first 12 months the child's movements will have become more co-ordinated and the surrounding space more fully explored.

By 8 months the child is reaching into all areas of her near-body space, crossing midline as she stretches with each arm into the space on the opposite side - if sometimes still over-reaching and toppling over.

As she handles the wooden spoon, not yet in full control, the incidental movements can be seen to be actually leading her attention – first into one space then another. When one hand initiates an action, attention to the other hand is lost - whatever was held is dropped.

Her body shape determines a lot. Her arms at this time are short, and act as fairly undifferentiated paddles, but they can reach and extend here and there.

By 9 months attention can be sustained in both hands at the same time, though maybe not yet co-ordinated. Incidental events at arm's length are noticed, a held spatula is used to poke and prod other things, at first accidentally, then more deliberately. Objects are handled by two hands together and passed from one hand to the other.

At 10 months she is vigorously swapping hand to hand and prodding and scraping very actively, watching the effects of her own movements – her whole body more clearly now with a singular focus of attention. Her grasp being carefully adjusted, first in her right then her left, then right again and then her left ... Even now her other arm moves sympathetically in a similar rhythm – not yet separately under her control, but still building up positive reinforcant - drive and energy for later activity.

At the same time she is beginning to use the two sides of her body in mutually supportive, complementary ways. She can hold a container with one hand as she reaches into it with her other to find something. Then she replaces it and looks ... takes it out ... replaces it … and so on.
An oscillatory activity – repeatedly putting in and taking out a single object. Waldon calls this 'Eeyore' behaviour.

Typically, by around 11 months the child can consistently delay her immediate responses; this break with ‘forced attending’ constitutes the origins of choice.

Now the child’s movement patterns create an 'inertial memory', and hence a blueprint for action, enabling her to release attention from one object - one spatial location - and return attention to another location, the source of things, in order to pick up a fresh one.

Only then is she able to engage in the hugely important 'Continuant behaviour' which is the main occupation of the child from 15 to 24 months.

Waldon saw this ‘Continuant’ ability as one of the most critical points in a child’s development.

In the video we see two children endlessly picking items up from here and there in order to bring them to a particular target location.

This continuant behaviour is to be the carrier phase for much of the child's activity for the next seven years and beyond... as she begins to notice the characteristics and properties, the nature of and relative positionings of the things around her, she gains a massive amount of experience strengthening and expanding her General Understanding proportionately.

The last snip of video shows a child recognising some similarities in things around him....and making an association for himself – making a connection between a toy and something he has seen Mummy and Daddy use often. He is applying his General Understanding to get a grasp of just another of those cultural nuances with which he is surrounded.