Can early childhood sensory stimulation affect psychomotor development?

I must confess, I was not really sure what “sensory stimulation” is until today. Google tells me (at least in the first pages of the search) that sensory stimulation can be part of therapy for different problems, ranging from learning difficulties, to autistic spectrum disorders and stroke.

What we sometimes tend to forget, however, is the importance of sensory stimulation in the early years of life. This paper that we recently published at the International Journal of Public Health made me look more into it. The WHO recognizes the critical importance of sensory stimulation in a family setup in the early years of life. It is estimated, however, that more than 200 million children aged below 5 years do not achieve their full development potential in developing countries. There seems to be a relationship between socioeconomic status and available sensory stimulation at home.

In the paper mentioned above the authors (Bilal Iqbal Avan, Syed Ahsan Raza and Betty R Kirkwood) aimed to compare the patterns of sensory stimulation in rural and urban areas of Pakistan and its effect on growth and psychomotor development. The included data from 1219 children and their main findings can be summarized as follows:

– Rural homes are significantly devoid of sensory stimulation compared to urban homes, irrespective of differences in socioeconomic status.

– Sensory stimulation seems to strongly influence psychomotor development, as well as stunting and being overweight.

How can these differences between urban and rural homes and sensory stimulation be explained? Do you think this is the case in western countries too? Share your views!

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