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Neurobehavioral Observation

In: Philosophy and Psychology

Submitted By MissZoeLayne
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Neurobehavioral Observation When I walked into the classroom at the Velma Thomas early childhood center, there was certainly a lot to look at. My eye was drawn to the colorful kid-made art on the wall, to the thriving indoor garden on the windowsill, and to the frazzled teacher attempting to explain the concept of sharing. The first child I noticed, however, was Laurence. Laurence is a small, lively young boy with brown skin and curly hair. He has recently turned five, making him one of the two five-year-olds in a class of 3- and 4-yr-olds. And at the moment I began my observation, he was rolling on the carpet. A classmate, Elena, took Laurence’s hand and started to pull him up off the floor. Laurence sat up, and then stood, without letting go of Elena’s hand. Elena pulled Laurence across the room towards a display of pictures of hands on the wall. Laurence pulled his hand out of Elena’s, and used it to reach out and touch the wall. He stomped his foot, and ran back to his square of carpet. Upon returning to the carpet, Laurence saw a book on the floor, a large blue textbook with a cover that proudly proclaimed, “SCIENCE.” He took hold of the book with both hands, opened it to a page near the middle, and placed the book on his head. The aforementioned frazzled teacher, Miss Rachel, said to him, “Laurence, I noticed what you’ve been doing with books today, and I wondered if you remembered what we do with books.” Laurence’s smile widened as he looked at Miss Rachel and giggled. He removed the book from his head and put it in his lap. As he flipped through the pages, his eyes shifted constantly from the book to the teacher and back again. Soon after The Incident with the Book, the class went to a recreation room down the hall to play (or, as Miss Rachel specified in an aside to me, to practice gross motor skills.) The class traveled down the hall in an orderly single-file line. When Laurence passed the water fountain on his left, he moved towards it while jutting his right foot out in front of the child behind him in line. After his drink, he looked back at the child behind him, and then skipped on down the hall. In the recreation room, Laurence walked quickly to a “Roller Racer,” a scooter on which he sat and used both arms to grasp the handlebars and apply pressure to propel himself forward. Laurence zoomed around the recreation room, doing laps around the perimeter of the floor. As he zoomed past the corner where I sat jotting down notes, he looked over at me, tilted his head to the right, and smiled. He stopped momentarily and tapped my knee, saying “tag, you’re it!” before squinting his eyes and continuing his trajectory around the room. He looked back in my direction with raised eyebrows and a wide grin multiple times over the course of the next couple minutes. The recreation room had only two Roller Racers, and they were in high demand. As the waiting list for the Roller Racers mounted, Miss Rachel said, “Laurence, it’s Aiden’s turn to play on the scooter.” Laurence stood up and walked backwards until he had fully dismounted the Roller Racer. Another child, Zoey, had been standing behind him, and she quickly sidestepped Laurence and sat on the Roller Racer. Laurence put his hands on his hips and raised his voice: “No, Zoey! It’s Aiden’s turn.” Zoey looked at Laurence and dismounted the Roller Racer, and Aiden got on. Laurence walked away from the scooter, towards a small wooden train that was sitting on the floor. He stopped in front of the train, then crouched down and picked it up with his right hand. He used his left hand to spin the wheels on the bottom of the train, then placed the train back on the ground. The corners of his mouth turned upward as Laurence placed both hands and his right foot on the small toy. He lifted his left foot into the air, and immediately fell onto his right side. Laurence used his hands to push up off the ground and return to his crouching position. He looked at the train, sticking out his lower lip and furrowing his brow. After a moment, his smile returned and he walked to the other side of the room, where he sat on a large yoga ball and his feet to push off from the ground and bounce up and down. After a couple bounces, he lifted his hands from their position on the bowl and clasped them together in front of his chest, still using his legs to bounce on the ball. His eyes widened and he giggled as he looked around the room at his classmates. When Laurence’s friend Eric rode by on the Roller Racer, Laurence said “I’ll race you!” and began to run in circles around the room. He looked back at Eric, who was still looking straight ahead and not at Laurence. Laurence stopped running and returned to the yoga ball. When it was time to put things away and leave the Recreation Room, Laurence picked up his yoga ball with both hands and placed it next to the wall. His friend, Robin, also picked up a yoga ball. Laurence stood in front of Robin and said “I’ll take that!” He took the ball from Robin and placed it next to the wall. The school’s head custodian, Sherman, came into the recreation room. Laurence ran up to him with a wide grin and said “Hi!” Sherman crouched down, and Laurence wrapped his arms around him. Sherman said, “Thank you for the hug.” Laurence released his grip around the custodian, put his arms at his sides, gave a quick nod, and ran towards the group of kids, who were assembling in a line to return to the classroom. Once back in the classroom, the teacher shared with the children a book filled with pictures from the desert, periodically asking them questions about what they saw. When asked what kind of flower was in the picture, Laurence said, with a raised voice, “My brain is telling me that it’s a sunflower, because it’s yellow! I once saw a flower like that in the mountains, but it was pink, and I don’t know what it was called.” After making this contribution, Laurence’s eyes began to wander around the room. He was sitting on the ground next to a table, and his eyes soon landed on a red plastic triangle-shaped block next to the table leg. He took it and began to turn it around in both hands, examining it from every angle. Miss Rachel saw this and asked Laurence to stop and pay attention. He put the block back where he found it, and looked to the teacher. As soon as Miss Rachel had turned her attention back to the book, he picked up the block again and smiled. He tapped the shoulder of the kid in front of him and whispered to him, “Hide this behind Lily.” (Lily was another classmate sitting in front of the kid in question.) The kid shook his head, so Laurence stuck out his lip, sighed, and placed the block back under the table. He looked back to the teacher, using his left hand to fiddle with the laces on his shoes while he sucked his right thumb.
` After story time, the children had time to play freely in the classroom. Laurence was running around the room with his left arm extended and his right hand holding a toy car high above his head, periodically making “vroom vroom” noises as he ran. He stopped and looked down when his foot bumped into a pair of binoculars that was sitting on the floor. He put the toy car in his pocket and picked up the binoculars. He used both hands to hold the binoculars to his eyes and began to spin around in circles. He stopped spinning and stood with the binoculars pointed at a boy named Aiden, who was playing with blocks. He dropped the binoculars, giggled, ran his hands through his hair, and ran to his friend Malachi, who was standing by the window. He tapped Malachi’s shoulder and whispered in his ear. Malachi laughed loudly and nodded. Laurence and Malachi walked toward Aiden. Laurence grabbed Aiden’s hand and pulled him away from the blocks, shouting “Come look over here!” while he did so. As he did this, Malachi kicked down Aiden’s tower of blocks. Laurence led Aiden back to his tower, where Aiden said “HEY!” and then laughed. Laurence laughed with him before giving Aiden a hug and sitting down on the ground. He handed a block to Aiden and said “We can help.” The three boys sat on the ground and began to rebuild the block tower. One by one, parents began to come into the classroom to pick up their kids. As each classmate prepared to leave, Laurence ran up to them, said “Bye!!” and wrapped his arms around his torso. Between these goodbyes, he sat on the carpet and lifted his legs off the floor so that he was balancing on his butt and hands. He then used his hands to push off the carpet so that he spun around in circles before eventually falling to the ground. Each time he fell, he giggled and looked around at the other kids. When analyzing these observations, it becomes clear that Laurence is decidedly a people person. He craves connection with others, as evidenced by his multitude of hugs and the tricks he plays on his classmates and on the teacher. He often acts out in order to gain attention from others such as by putting the book on his head, trying to engage me as he rode around the rec room on his scooter, and hatching the plot to demolish Aiden’s block tower. Though he loves to elicit emotional responses from others, he also is more than capable of regulating his impulses.
When he did not receive the response he wanted, such as when I decided not to engage or when Eric ignored his request to race Laurence on the scooter, he did not throw a fit as many toddlers do. This shows that his upper limbic structures are functioning effectively. “Cortical fibers feed back to the amygdala and other subcortical limbic structures, their main function being to inhibit lower limbic activity. This is the route we eventually use to hold our feelings in check; it blocks some of those reflective reactions of fear, anger, jealousy, or greed that wreak havoc with our relationships or thwart our loftiest goals… it underlies the kind of self-control that is necessary for any successful social interaction or disciplined achievement” (Eliot 295). When Laurence does not achieve his goals, he experiences these reflective reactions, his loud sighs and pouty face showing clear signs of anger. However, instead of giving into this frustration, he calmly moves on to another activity. Judging by this relatively early ability to self-regulate his emotions and control his impulses, it would be fair to assume that Laurence possesses high emotional intelligence, and will be well-adjusted and successful well into adulthood.
Laurence shows intelligence not only emotionally, but intellectually as well. When he was shown the flower in the book, he was able to draw on previous knowledge to identify it as a sunflower. While this identification was incorrect, his cerebral cortex was able to process the information his retinas received about the color of the flower, and then connect it to information he already knows about the color of sunflowers. When he compares the flower to one he saw “in the mountains,” he exhibits an ability to deliberately file away memory as learned information, stored in his hippocampus and processed in his cerebral cortex. Laurence’s “if this, then that” reasoning (“my brain is telling me it’s a sunflower because it’s yellow”) shows that he is beginning to use memory and experience in a “truly mature way- to intentionally study and acquire new information” (Eliot 330).
Laurence is also well-developed in terms of motor development. This is most evident when he balanced on his butt while spinning in circles on the carpet, like a little break dancer. When Laurence bounced on the yoga ball in the recreation room, he was able to shift his weight and maintain balance without using his hands, and showed visible signs of pride and joy at his ability to do so. Perhaps the last time he bounced on the ball, he had to use his hands to keep his balance. “The cerebellum receives input from both the motor cortex- telling it what kind of movement is being attempted-and from various senses- vision, hearing, balance, and proprioception- telling it what kind of movement is actually taking place. By comparing all these inputs, the cerebellum is able to modify motor commands… to better match the intended movement” (Eliot 267).
Based on my observation, I conclude that Laurence’s cerebellum and motor cortex are both working effectively, and are developing at a normal rate. When he attempts a movement, he generally succeeds. He exhibits strong motor coordination and a keen awareness of his body in space. On the yoga ball, he showed that he was proud of his own coordination, suggesting that his motor skills are still developing, growing stronger each day.
This spatial awareness stems from a well-developed sense of proprioception. Proprioception “uses information from the skin as well as signals from the muscles and joints to inform the brain about where our limbs are positioned at any given instant” (Eliot 125). When Laurence ducked out of line to take a drink from the water fountain, he extended his right leg and planted his foot on the ground to hold his place in line. He did this without looking, knowing from his position in space that this would hold his spot in line. He also exhibited spatial awareness when he realized he could not safely balance on the small toy train the way he did on the scooter, after attempting this feat only once.
Laurence certainly has no aversion to tactile input. He often uses touch to connect with others, tapping a classmate on the shoulder to get his attention or hugging Aiden to apologize for destroying his block tower. He touches others without hesitation or selectivity, hugging every single child before they left the classroom. Laurence also seems to crave vestibular input. Though his vestibular sensitivity probably reached its peak between six and eight months of age (Eliot 154), Laurence still gravitates toward activities that stimulate his vestibular system- bouncing on the yoga ball, zooming around on the scooter, and spinning in circles. This self-stimulation produces near-immediate happiness for Laurence, evidenced by his smiles and laughter.
In terms of temperament, Laurence is clearly uninhibited and very confident. Though he knows how to read the book, or that he should pay attention during storytime, he places the book on his head and plays with the triangle block anyway, both because he wants to, and because he hopes that his actions will attract the attention of others. He is not at all afraid to assert himself, such as when Zoey sat on the Roller Racer, despite it being Aiden’s turn. This insistence that Aiden get his turn on the scooter might suggest that he is beginning to develop some empathy. True empathy is one of the last emotional skills to appear in a child’s development because it requires “a conscious recognition of another person” (Eliot 300).
The incident involving Aiden’s block tower also hints at this developing awareness of the emotions of others. Though Laurence schemes to interrupt Aiden’s play for his own amusement, he also tries to make it up to Aiden by hugging him afterwards and by helping to rebuild the tower. Despite this, Laurence does still exhibit some signs of the selfishness inherent to toddlers, specifically when he took the yoga ball from Robin so that he could be the one to clean up, or when he lost interest in story-time after he had made his contribution to the conversation.
When Laurence tried to engage me in his play, despite having never met me before, he showed that he is willing to embrace novelty. He socializes effortlessly and his future intelligence can only benefit from his desire to explore his environment. We can presume from Laurence’s outgoing temperament that his left frontal cortex is very active (Eliot 320), a trait which is largely determined by genes, though it’s likely that Laurence’s home life and experiences at school also played a role in cultivating his confidence and curiosity.
Laurence is a remarkably clever, mischievous, well-adjusted boy. Though he spends a lot of time actively seeking acknowledgement from others, he isn’t overly disappointed when he doesn’t receive it. My conclusions are obviously limited by the short time I spent with him, but based on my observation of Laurence and my knowledge of childhood brain development, I can say that he appears to be developing normally in all respects. I can see no reason why he should not continue to do so and become a confident, outgoing, successful adult.

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Data Collection Techniques

...Data Collection Techniques The data collection technique I have chosen is observational research otherwise known as field research. The generalizability would be to ascertain how a certain group reacts to, or is motivated by certain social settings to obtain a desired outcome. What causes certain people to behave a certain way or react differently from others in different social settings and what the effect it may have on a social standing. My chosen data collection technique would involve observing subjects in a normal, natural environment in which they would interact without outside influences. There are mutlitple aspects of the observational technique. The complete participant would be one who goes in unnoticed and the subjects have no idea they are being observed. There is the complete observer who watches from a distance either behind a mirror or by blending in to the natural scenery. Then there is the participant observer who lets the subjects know that s/he is performing research and the subjects are aware of being watched. The strengths of being able to observe subjects in a natural setting is that more information is able to be observed imparting important clues as to the impact of context on behavior. It’s also useful whereas subjects that would be unable to fill out surveys such as small children can be observed. The weaknesses, however, is that only small groups at a time can be observed in this setting. It also has the lackluster of being the most intensive......

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