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Introduction to Students with Physical and Health Issues

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Motor development is defined as a step-by-step process of refining skills and incorporating biomechanical principles of movement, which results in an efficient and consistent human behavior (Umphred, Carlson, and Carlson, 2006). Human motor system consists of more than 700 muscles together with the nerves which supply them. Motor behaviors are achieved by coordinated efforts among all these parts and other systems of the human body. This is how movement is produced. Children who are characterized by typical and atypical motor development differ by movement patterns. As a result of this difference,   the musculoskeletal system develops in a different way. This paper examines the significance of motor development in children and the differences between typical and atypical modes of motor development on the basis of a response by one special needs educator/special needs program coordinator, as well as on the basis of scholarly evidence found in pertinent sources.

Typical motor development is child’s development in an orderly and highly predictable sequence with possible minor variations in the range and age of motor behaviors (NYS Department of Health, 2006). Typical motor development is often determined by specific stages. Prenatal motor development involves fetuses displaying complex behaviors, for instance, thumb sucking, grasping, reaching, and kicking the utero.  In a period from a child’s birth up to two years of age, he or she is supposed to demonstrate and form a range of the following: reflexes, spontaneous movements, locomotion, postural control, and manual control (Sugden, 2011). Specifically, in infancy (from 0 to 12 months) emergence of motor behaviours in the new environment takes place. The first three months are about gaining the head control and doing some reaching activities. During the period from 4 to 6 months the child works to maintain the upright posture and learn to sit. From 6 months to 1 year, the child develops mobility: learns to crawl, roll, and creep (Umphred, Carlson & Carlson, 2006). From two to seven years, children develop typical bodily control functions. This involves walking, slow and fast movements, jumping, balancing, hopping, jumping, throwing, running, and catching (Sugden, 2011). In particular, the period of early childhood (from 1 to 5 years) is when children learn to climb, run, and jump. In addition, they build small towers out of blocks, play with the ball, draw with crayons, and cut with scissors, etc. Between 5 and 8 years children’s manipulative skills develop exponentially. They practice and acquire lots of fine-motor and manipulative skills including dressing self, buttoning/ unbuttoning, and handwriting, etc (Umphred, Carlson, & Carlson, 2006).

The significance of adequate motor skills development has been defined by Piaget and other scholars. Piaget (1950) claimed that motor and sensory experiences are the ground of intellectual functioning during the first two years of life (Henninger, 2009). According to Galahue (1993), movement is at the core of children’s lives in the young age. It is deemed a significant facet of their development  not just in the motor , but also in cognitive and affective spheres (in Henninger, 2009).   Besides, physical activity in children of the young age are important in preventing childhood obesity (Epstein, 2007). Movement activities help children develop social skills. Motor development is also a way of adequate emotional development. For example, mastering motor skills helps children see themselves as more competent and capable. Bunker (1991) found that children engaged in physical activities develop self-confidence as well as self-esteem (in Henninger, 2009). Additionally, physical competence is crucial to development of children’s cognitive ability in early childhood. 

From responses by special needs educators, it appears that motor, cognitive and psychosocial aspects of child development are interdependent. In this context, the level of education of a child who is physically impaired greatly depends on motor development. Besides, motor development is crucial for being socially included. In other words, children with atypical development are at risk of being socially isolated because of their constant need of being supported by adults.  Children with atypical motor development have weakened body structures and are often restricted in mobility. During school years, they may require home-bound instruction merely several hours a week rather than having a typical school day full of interaction and socialization. Those children who do attend regular classrooms may feel isolated unless special focus is maintained on keeping them socially included; they also miss lots of educational activities and events such as sport events, field trips, or extra curricular events. At the same time, the foregoing activities are very helpful for learning promotion, so children with atypical motor development need to compensate for lack of participation in such events by strengthening some other sense.

As for the difference between the two modes of motor development, if a child fails to attain certain milestones within given age ranges, his or her motor development is thought to be atypical. In other words, if the child exhibits significant delays in achieving these milestones, a motor or a movement disorder may be the cause. For instance, if a child is unable to maintain sitting by the age of ten months, he or she evidently has some disorder of this kind. Same applies to the child whose legs become particularly stiff as he or she rolls over. Examples of atypical motor development in older kids include inability to eat using utensils, draw, cut with scissors, or dress (undress). Atypical motor development may be a result of brain damage during or before birth and genetic defects, or other health issues such as muscular dystrophy, congenital hypotonia, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, and progressive metabolic disorder, etc. 

Motor disorders are above all related to problems in muscle development, namely, problems with muscle tone, muscle control and strength. Children with low or hypotonic muscle tone find it difficult to move muscles and are quickly fatigued. They are less active physically in comparison with their peers. Children with hypertonic muscle tone have so-called locked muscles which make their movements difficult (e.g. walking, bending the arm or at the knees). Combination of these two tones in a child results in his or her difficulty in getting muscles relaxed. As for children who have difficulty maintaining control over their muscles, they typically exhibit involuntary movements such as tremors, twitches, or movements of writhing. In most extreme cases, a child with minimal muscle control is confined to a wheel chair and cannot walk or eat himself. Poor muscle strength results in children having difficulty running fast, climbing, and lifting objects, etc.

In a nutshell, motor development is a crucial aspect of child development. It is closely related to intellectual and psychosocial development in children. Differences between typical and atypical modes of child development are based on children’s ability/inability to attain certain milestones of age development. 

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