Gross Motor Skills
What is it?
Gross motor skills consist of activities that require the use of large muscle groups such as in the legs, arms, and trunk. These skills develop to assist children in improving and refining their abilities, progressing from crawling as an infant to walking and eventually running, jumping, and other more dynamic activities. Gross motor skills are also involved in improved balance reactions, increased muscle strength, and optimal mobility and stability to help acquire the ability to perform various activities.
Why is this important?
A vital part of learning and development starts with setting a child up for success. Often, improper body mechanics or positioning leads to a poor setup resulting in significantly reduced likelihood to complete an activity effectively. Sometimes a certain body position may be caused by an anatomical deformity that is not easily changeable, but in other cases the way a child chooses or is accustomed to position oneself may be more modifiable with the right instruction.
What are some signs of challenges in this area?
Some visible and tangible signs of poor positioning include a flat spot on your child’s head, observing your child move asymmetrically such as tilting to one side or walking unevenly, and “W” sitting. These examples all demonstrate the causes and effects of adverse positioning that can lead to pain, skeletal or muscular deformities, and functional deficits. Diagnoses like idiopathic toe walking may be instigated by poor positioning though a behavioral component may also be involved. Observe your child in all types of positions – lying on his or her back and stomach, on hands and knees, sitting, standing, walking, etc. – and compare their movements to other children at that age. If something is considerably different, some degree of poor body mechanics may be responsible.
How can PT help?
Physical therapists are experts in both static and dynamic movement. They will be able to observe your child in multiple positions or during activities and determine what may be causing the symptoms or functional deficits with which your child struggles. During physical therapy, you may be educated about the beneficial versus detrimental use of certain equipment and how that may lead to faulty positioning. You may also learn handling techniques to help treat and prevent current deficits caused by muscular or joint impairments. You and your child may be instructed in the use of adaptive devices or orthotics as needed to assist in proper positioning. Whatever the cause of the problem, participation in an individualized physical therapy program will provide your child with the opportunity to both achieve and maintain favorable and healthy postures at rest and during activities.