What is Balance and how does it affect our lives? What is Motor Planning? What does it mean when the therapist says that my child has ‘balance issues’ or trouble with ‘motor planning’?
Balance and motion are terms that refer to the practical function of the vestibular sensory system. The vestibular system controls and regulates a child’s ability to maintain balance and upright posture by sensing a person’s orientation with respect to gravity. The brain is also given information by the body’s joints with regard to their position—this is called proprioception, or the awareness of our position in space. The proprioceptive and vestibular systems work hand-in-hand with the execution and control of coordinated body movements, such as running, jumping, negociating stairs, or throwing a ball as well as fine motor movements like tying a shoe, cutting out a shape, or tracing a letter.
Children who have problems with balance frequently move with poor control, seem fatigued or weak, and they may appear clumsy and uncoordinated. Such a child may also display a fear of having their feet off the ground, experience anxiety when attempting a new task, and have difficulty participating in sports and other activities that require coordinated movements.
Motor planning refers to praxis, or the ability to conceptualize, plan, and organize movements in order to complete unfamiliar motor tasks in the correct order from beginning to end. Praxis is a higher-level cognitive function that depends on the integration of multiple sensory systems, including the vestibular and proprioceptive system. Incoming sensory stimulation needs to be processed correctly in order to form a coordinated motor response.
Children who are apraxic or dyspraxic will have trouble figuring out how to carry multiple items at the same time, fail to perform tasks in proper sequence, and have difficulty imitating demonstrated actions. They have difficulty learning new activities and often perform activities in an awkward or hesitant way.
Balance and motor planning are intimately tied; it is difficult to say that a child has just a balance issue or their only deficit is in the area of motor planning.
There are Occupational Therapists and Physical Therapists who specialize in treating children with these types of problems. They can evaluate your child’s problems and design a treatment plan to address the areas of difficulty and provide strategies to help the child.
Next week in Part 2, we will discuss possible treatment strategies and what parents can work on at home.
Blog Administrator: Trisha Roberts
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