How to Support Motor Skills: A Whole Body Approach
By Sally McNamara (OT)
As an occupational therapist I am often asked for ideas on how to support or ‘fix’ one aspect of motor development. For example, a child might hold their pencil incorrectly, have difficulty riding a bike or be unable to dress independently.
While most people hope there is a quick solution to the problem the truth is that each motor skill involves a series of complex connections between many different parts of the brain and body. As a consequence the development of each motor skill requires consideration of the whole body and how it works together.
So while fine motor activities are still important for children who have fine motor delays, only focusing on exposing the child to more fine motor activities will mean that the child is unlikely to make as much progress as one who has been encouraged to participate in activities that support the development of the body as a whole.
Understanding motor skills development (and why is this important?)
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While most issues with pencil control and fine motor coordination are typically easy to identify, gross motor coordination difficulties, reduced shoulder stability and poor core strength can be harder to pick up. The whole approach considers:
- Signs of reduced gross motor coordination can include difficulty crossing the midline of the body (e.g. touching the elbow to the opposite knee), poor balance, slower reaction times, clumsiness, and/or difficulty performing alternating movements or movement sequences.
- Signs of reduce shoulder stability can include a tendency to tense or tuck the shoulder during fine motor tasks, difficulty supporting body weight through the arms or trouble keeping arms up in the air, and/or a tendency to use large arm movements instead of smaller hands and finger movements (e.g. whole arm movements when writing).
Sue Larkey’s Comment
This programme is fantastic as it solves motor issues with quick fun activities. You can give this book to parents/carers or support staff to follow. It has GREAT time-savers that use a whole body approach to motor skills. I love the way it is divided into the whole body activities and covers five key motor skill areas – ‘core strength’, ‘shoulder stability’, ‘gross motor coordination’, ‘fine motor coordination’ and ‘pencil control’. I also love that each of the 100 activities can be mixed and matched quickly and easily for the child to follow during each session.
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