Physical therapy

Physical Therapy Targets Gross Motor Delays That Spur Other Problems

A child who struggles to explore their environment on the same level of their peers due to a gross motor delay may struggle on other fronts too, including cognitive development and behavioral challenges.

Recently, the journal Physical Therapy published a study determining that gross motor delays were associated with problem daytime behaviors and quality of life issues for children with autism spectrum disorder. Researchers examined cross-sectional, retrospective data of more than 3,200 children between the ages of 2 and 6 diagnosed with ASD. They found that children who struggled more with gross motor skills had more daytime problem behaviors. So when the goal is targeting problem behaviors for children with ASD, researchers concluded it’s important not to overlook the possible need for physical therapy.

Children with a wide range of conditions and diagnoses may have gross motor delays, which are those skills involving the large muscles of the arms, legs and torso. Gross motor skill delays might become apparent when a child is learning to crawl, sit, walk, run, throw a ball or balance. All kids reach developmental milestones at varying increments, but those who are far behind can benefit from physical therapy to help them catch up.

Gross motor skill delays can be linked to any number of conditions – or may exist independently of anything else. Untreated, these delays can impact your child’s ability to reach their full potential. 

Gross Motor Delays Impact Your Child’s Quality of Life

Although the majority of children in therapy are first brought because of a delay in speech or language development, that’s only because it tends to be one of the most noticeable and immediately concerning issues. Gross motor skill delays are sometimes less apparent and frequently brushed off as a child being “clumsy.” It’s often not until a child is receiving some other type of therapy that we begin to notice that gross motor skill development is a problem.

That’s one of the benefits of bringing your child to FOCUS in Fort Myers because children do have the opportunity to interact with therapists from a wide range of disciplines. Obvious issues may be noted in passing by a therapist, and parents have the chance to ask for a quick pre-screening if there are concerns that may warrant a more in-depth evaluation that is a precursor to physical therapy. 

As noted by researchers in the journal Pediatrics, gross motor skill delays are common and vary in severity and outcome. Some children with delays will simply achieve typical milestones at a later age. Others need help to catch up, and some have permanent motor disabilities. Motor delays are sometimes the first or most obvious sign of a global developmental disorder, so it’s important not to overlook the need for an evaluation.

Our pediatric physical therapy approach will depend on each child’s specific needs and disabilities, with the ultimate goal of helping each child learn how to successfully navigate his or her environment to the best of their abilities.

How Physical Therapy Targets Gross Motor Skill Development

We’ll take into account your child’s muscle tone, functional mobility, strength, coordination, balance and tolerance for sensory input to develop an individualized plan to help strengthen the muscles and skill sets they need for strengthening their gross motor skills. Pediatric physical therapy sessions can include things like:

  • Stretching;
  • Fun exercises and play;
  • Gait training for improved walking;
  • Possible shoe inserts (to help with ankle and foot alignment during walking and play);
  • An in-home exercise program to help carry over and generalize these skills in other environments.

Because gross motor delays can impact so many facets of a child’s quality of life, it’s important to intervene early and raise the question with your doctor or our FOCUS physical therapists if you have concerns.

FOCUS offers pediatric physical therapy in Fort Myers and throughout Southwest Florida. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.

Additional Resources:

Associations of Gross Motor Delay, Behavior, and Quality of Life in Young Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder, April 1, 2018, Physical Therapy

More Blog Entries:

Why Our FOCUS Speech and Occupational Therapists LOVE Puppets, April 2, 2018, Fort Myers Physical Therapist Blog

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