Stages of Development

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By: Sheila M. Frodermann, N.D.

I would like to offer a brief summary of the nervous, glandular, and immune systems from a modern holistic medical model, based on R. Steiner's Three Seven-Year Stages of Child Development. We will consider Stage 1 in two parts: from birth to age 18 months, and from 18 months to age 7 as discussed by Dr. Gerard Gueniot, a holistic medical practitioner of Belgium.

Hormones & Brain Development
The development of the brain is influenced by hormones. Initially the mother's hormones influence fetus and newborn through the first few weeks of life as the child's own glands develop. The glands secrete hormones into the bloodstream which circulate throughout the body initiating brain and nervous tissue development.

Each hormone 'informs' the organism. Birth is an initiation into the struggle of life. A ruling hormone from birth to 18 months is cortisol from the adrenal glands, the glands of adaptation and survival. During this age the child needs protection, boundaries and a safe space. The caregiver must offer consistency to allow the child to master the rhythms of life: breathing, the beating of the heart, cerebral spinal fluid rhythms, sleep, feeding, and defecation.

From 18 months to seven years a ruling gland is the thyroid, which initiates the emotional brain and offers opposite forces to the adrenals. Children have no sense of self before age three; they associate fully with the mother and do not yet call themselves "I." Slowly they develop awareness of self as an individual. If children are separated from mother and family at this time, their psyche may be permanently disturbed. These children are heart-centered in their values and begin to have feelings toward others. They learn best when taught simple things, one at a time, and through repetition, such as hearing the same stories over and over again, and eating very simple food. They are explicit about likes and dislikes, and imitate others. This is correlated with artistic development and an ability to synthesize images and the outer world. Artistic projects help develop this creative aspect. However, there is not yet ability for higher (cortical) thinking and the spiritual force is not yet developed. It is important that children be exposed to nature, for they are creatures of nature at this stage.

Age seven to fourteen represents the coming of age and reason. The pituitary gland becomes dominant, correlating with the appearance of the second teeth. The action of the pituitary is in the realms of education, socialization, individualization, and choice. The action, or analytical brain, develops with thinking, reading skills, mathematics, communication. Children discover the self or "I" through peer interaction and begin to integrate into the world.

The sex glands, activated at puberty, represent both a maturation of reproductive function and development of moral and spiritual values. These arise out of the experiences of sensitivity and imagination blended with analysis and intellectualization. Functional and emotional reproductive activities and artistic aspects are cultivated. Youngsters grapple with the meaning of life, find the balance between ideals and reality, and confront their driving force to make a difference in the world.

Physiological or emotional chal­lenges within each of these stages can have a lasting imprint and may give rise to learning disabilities, behavior problems, or organ related problems. For example, Autism, a problem at the neurological level, is usually revealed at age 18 months. If a child experiences severe emotional stress during the development of a brain-organ connec­tion, problems may arise in that organ. Another example, the large intestine-brain connection occurs at about age three and the death of a close family member, or abuse at this age will predispose the child (and adult) to problems such as irritable bowel, constipation, or colitis.

To be continued.

Dr. Sheila M. Froderman is a naturopathic physician with a practice in Providence, RI. She specializes in women's health and chronic disease. She can be consulted at (401) 455-0546.


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