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Friday, April 7, 2017

Balance and Motor Planning--Vital Developmental Skills Part I By Trisha Roberts

Balance and Motor Planning are vital skills

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.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Stair climbing is a skill requiring coordinated movement of the whole body

Many different systems work together to enable a person to tie their shoes

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.

Tripping and falling can indicate a motor problem

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.  

Correct processing of incoming signals

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.

Difficulty in the timing of catching a ball

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.

Physical Therapy can help your child develop better motor skills

 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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