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Ready, Set, Parent

By Don Cook

My child is having problems developing motor skills. What do I do?

Children tend to develop and hit milestones at different times and at certain ages, such as walking, talking, picking things up, learning to do different things, and developing general motor skills. While there is a timeline for expected progress for children and their development, they are more of a guideline than a deadline. Every child is different and will develop naturally at their own pace. As a parent, it is always a good idea to take note of their child’s progress to ensure they are meeting the expected progress within reason. 

If you’re concerned your child may be experiencing problems with motor skill development, there are some things you can do. The first is to educate yourself on the expected motor skills for your child’s age and what is considered a fine motor skill vs. gross motor skill. Fine motor skills are complex motor skills involving small muscles such as the wrists or hands, while gross motor skills tend to be more whole-body movements involving large muscle groups such as the torso, legs and arms. 

By noting what you see when your child struggles with certain movements, you can be better prepared to ask questions when visiting your child’s health care provider. If your child attends daycare or school, coordinate with them to see if they are noticing the same struggles when your child is there. Together, you can come up with fully detailed notes of your child’s progress and struggles, which can certainly help when seeking advice or help with how to help your child’s development. 

Your child’s health care provider will be the best person to discuss your concerns with any motor skills. They can assist with answering any questions, as well as give recommendations for next steps. Next steps could range from exercises to do with your child at home, such as tummy time. It could include attending regular physical therapy appointments if the struggles are related to underdeveloped muscles or even occupational therapy, which can help to build better coordination, balance, and self-regulation skills. If the struggles are related to the development of your child’s speech, they may also recommend speech/language therapy.

The biggest takeaways are to not get too wrapped up in the timelines that say, “By this age or time, your child should be doing this….” as it is definitely more of a guideline than a deadline. You know your child, and if you feel there is a concern, you’ll always be a better judge than any written timeline. Note your concerns, and coordinate with your child’s daycare or school teacher to see if they are noticing the same. Once you have compiled your notes, speak with your child’s health care provider to ask any questions that you may have, note your concerns, and discuss the potential next steps. There are many resources to help your child build up their motor skills, which can range from at-home exercises to appointments with physical therapy or occupational therapy professionals to get your child’s progress on track.  

For more information on child experiencing problems developing motor skills and what to do next, visit: HealthyChildren.org.

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