Cognitive Development of School Age Child The cognitive development of the school age child is progressing rapidly. The two main cognitive processes at this time, which allow the child to become a more effective communicator during the school age years are non-egocentrism and decentration. Non-egocentrism is the child’s ability to take on the perspective of others. Until school age, the child is egocentric and is unable to see things from anyone’s perspective but his own. Non-egocentrism allows the child to use diactic terms correctly, so he can describe ideas using deixis (words such as “here,” “there,” “this,” “that,” “me,” and “you”).
Decentration is the ability of the child to move from a rigid unidimentional description of events to a multidimensional description. School age children can describe things multidimentionally as opposed to pre-schoolers who cannot do so yet.
These two cognitive concepts allow children to do things, which they were previously unable to do, such as tell narratives. They become cognitively familiar with story grammar rules, so that they are better able to understand stories, as well as tell them more cohesively. The child’s social cognition also increases by school age. This allows him to be a successful communicator, with better conversational abilities. His knowledge of people, relationships, and events increases. The school age child can introduce a topic and maintain flow of conversation through several turns, whereas a pre-schooler can only go through one or two turns in a conversation.
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Also, a school age child can shift in topics within a conversation. As a result of the increased cognitive skills, several abilities emerge and are mastered during the school years. These include the use of disjuncts and conjuncts, indirect requests, conversational repairs, and as mentioned before, the increased use of diactic terms. Disjuncts are phrases used to convey the speaker’s attitude towards the information that’s being discussed (i.e. “to be honest,” “to my surprise”).
Conjuncts are connective devices used to show the relationship between ideas.
They signal a logical connection between sentences (i.e. “as a result of,” “nevertheless”).
Indirect requests are witnesses in pre-school years, but increase drastically during the school age. They mirror the child’s growing ability to understand non-literal meanings. Indirect requests are related to non-egocentrism in that they require that the child be able to take on the listener’s perspective. Another result of non-egocentrism is the use of conversational repairs.
Whereas a pre-school child, if he is not being understood, will simply repeat exactly what he said before, the school age child looks for other ways to make his meaning clear. He might rephrase what he said, define terms, or establish the cause of the breakdown in the conversation. Finally , the diactic terms also reflect the child’s ability to take on the perspective of the listener.