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Challenges in First‐Years Schools: Early Manifestations of Executive Function

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The origins and early development of Executive Functions (EF) have been closely related to language. The investigation in EF development has been conducted mainly through standardized tasks, in which the researcher determines what the child should do, how and when. Critical voices question the ecological validity of the classic tasks and emphasize the existence of EF through prelinguistic signs from the end of the first year of life. They also highlight the need to study the development of EF in everyday situations, where infants give themselves their own challenges and use their own means to achieve them, in interaction with others and with materiality. This chapter analyzes the first challenges that infants present to themselves in classroom 0-1 of the Early Years School. Additionally, it explores what means they use to overcome their difficulties and regulate their own behavior. It was observed that: (1) infants pose significant challenges to themselves from the last third of the first year; (2) this challenges are related to achieving and understanding the functional and symbolic uses of objects and instruments; (3) to achieve them, infants inhibit distractors and inappropriate behaviors, and employ private gestures and goal-oriented actions in a flexible and persistent manner; (4) the teachers’ educational action and the materiality they make available to the infants have a central role in the development of EF in the first years of life.

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Article
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The later Wittgenstein's emphasis on the social usage of language has been very influential in psychology, particularly in language acquisition research. This move toward a pragmatic position should also be applied to gestures in pre-linguistic children and to objects in the everyday contexts of use. The shared ‘forms of life’ presupposed by language involve pre-linguistic gestures and material ‘things’.Research on early communication has focused on proto-declarative and proto-imperative gestures. I extend this focus and propose further types of gestures: ‘proto-interrogatives’ – in which children “ask” for help or regulation from adults, and three types of ‘private gestures’ – ostensive, indexical and symbolic – in which children regulate their own behaviour. This diversity of gestures becomes apparent when objects are taken seriously. Wittgenstein's ‘language-games’ necessarily apply to games with objects and gestures as well: social meaning in all cases is emergent within the context of these ‘sign games’ and ‘circumstances.’
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This study investigated prospective links between quality of the early caregiving environment and children's subsequent executive functioning (EF). Sixty-two families were met on five occasions, allowing for assessment of maternal interactive behavior, paternal interactive behavior, and child attachment security between 1 and 2 years of age, and child EF at 2 and 3 years. The results suggested that composite scores of parental behavior and child attachment were related to child performance on EF tasks entailing strong working memory and cognitive flexibility components (conflict-EF). In particular, child attachment security was related to conflict-EF performance at 3 years above and beyond what was explained by a combination of all other social antecedents of child EF identified thus far: child verbal ability and prior EF, family SES, and parenting behavior. Attachment security may thus play a meaningful role in young children's development of executive control.
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The hierarchical competing systems model (HCSM) provides a framework for understanding the emergence and early development of executive function--the cognitive processes underlying the conscious control of behavior--in the context of search for hidden objects. According to this model, behavior is determined by the joint influence of a developmentally invariant habit system and a conscious representational system that becomes increasingly influential as children develop. This article describes a computational formalization of the HCSM, reviews behavioral and computational research consistent with the model, and suggests directions for future research on the development of executive function.
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25 infants were tested every 2 weeks on the AB Object Permanence Task devised by Piaget, from the age when they first reached for a hidden object until they were 12 months. The delay between hiding and retrieval necessary to produce the AB error increased continuously throughout this period at an average rate of 2 sec/month, from under 2 sec at 7 1/2 months to over 10 sec by 12 months. All children displayed the AB error repeatedly over the months of testing. Large between-children differences in delay needed for the AB error were found at each age. Girls tolerated longer delays than boys. The characteristic pattern to the AB error did not vary over age or sex. Range of delay producing the AB error in any child was small. Errors disappeared when delays were reduced by 2-3 sec, and reaching became random or severely perseverative when delays were increased 2-3 sec above the level producing AB error. AB provides an index of the ability to carry out an intention based on stored information despite a conflicting habitual tendency.
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One of the most fascinating phenomena in early development is that babies not only understand signs others direct to them and later use them to communicate with others, but they also come to direct the same signs towards themselves in a private way. Private gestures become "tools of thought". There is a considerable literature about private language, but almost nothing about private gestures. Private gestures pose an intriguing communicative puzzle: they are communicative, but with the self. In this paper we study two types of private gestures (signs) before language: (1) private ostensive gestures and (2) private pointing gestures. We show in a case study of one child between 12 and 18 months of age that both are used with a self-reflexive function, as a way of "thinking" what to do, in order to solve a problem in the conventional use of an object. The private gestures become self-reflexive signs.
Basilio , M. and Rodríguez , C. ( 2017 ). How toddlers think with their hands: Social and private gestures as evidence of cognitive self‐regulation in guided play with objects. Early Child Development and Care [Online]. Available at : DOI. <https://doi.org/10.1080/03004430.2016.1202944> [].
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