Saturday, 1 March 2014

Fine & Gross Motor Skills (Dyspraxia, Balance Co-Ordination) by  Dyslexia Toby ©2014

The co-ordination of the skeletal, muscular and neurological body functions combine to perform fine motor skills.  Fine motor control is the ability to make small, precise movements, such as picking up a tiny object with your thumb and index finger.  There are several things you can do to improve fine motor, such as working with a soft ball… making sure you get your child to squeeze the ball, stretching the fingers and pull the ball in by using mainly the finger tips. Rolling up a tea towel from flat is also good.
Use of manipulative materials is great, such as jigsaw puzzles and Lego… Plasticine is also very good.
Marbles is a great game for improving fine motor skill and children love to play it.  Set up a marbles game and play it for 15 to 20 minutes several times a day.  To shoot marbles, set up a small box on its side either on a table, on a carpet or on the floor. Pick up a marble between the tip of your index finger and thumb and place on the ground.  Flick it with your index finger (and other fingers) off your thumb to shoot it towards the box, trying to get it inside. Start close to the box and as co-ordination improves move the box further away, which will also continue to develop more accuracy.
Encourage the use of a pencil from as early as possible, even scribbling helps to improve fine motor skill… point this out to your child’s teacher, as they might not understand how this causes them to struggle and fatigue can also be monitored.  It’s always a good idea to get them to tell you what they have sketched, rather than embarrass them by second guessing their subject.
Another exercise to strengthen the fingers and improve fine motor is to get an elastic band and thread it around the fingers and try to spread the fingers as wide as you can and return to normal position. Repeat this (a few minutes at each end of the day) every day.
It’s also important to help your child with adequate support and stability.  Rather like we rest our wrists on a laptop, the wrist plays an important part in writing and hand/eye co-ordination is also very important.

The same can be said for the feet… it’s so important for stability as our feet and toes are our anchors to the ground.  Many dyspraxic children tend to have fallen arches (flat footed) and this, like many of the above, is caused by lack of or poor muscle tone.  I can remember one occasion during my early years as a teacher, when my balance caused others to think that I took a drink and my wobbling was down to this.  I can remember explaining to someone in our Human Resource Department that this was a part of my dyspraxia and he hadn’t a clue about the daily struggles and high levels of concentration required to get by day on day.  These thingsdo improve because we learn ways to compensate, but they never leave us for good. 
I am going to explain this a little deeper, as many believe it has no relevance to us with balance and co-ordination issues, but believe me it does.  If we go as far back as primal times, our feet played an equal part in our ability to climb, just like some animals do to this day.  You only have to look at a ballerina and see how they use their whole foot from heel to toe.  We have 26 bones in our foot and it is far from the most complex bone structure in the entire body… the metatarsals link to the midfoot and hind.  If we think of a shoe and its widest and narrowest points front to back, this is triangular shaped and we use this to great effect when balancing.  Try and balance whilst lifting your toes and see how hard it is!  It’s no shock to see top athletes taking a long time to recover when they have a broken metatarsal, as this is the backbone of our foot and responsible for most of our ability to balance.
 Try to get your child to stand on tip toes for very short periods, this will help strengthen this area… also, stand facing a wall with hands against the wall for stability, keep one foot flat and lift the heel of the other so on the ball of the foot…. repeat around six times per foot and repeat twice a day.  Arching the feet and then flattening again can help improve and strengthen arches, you can also buy orthotics which support the collapsed or weak arch and this will also help stability.  Always demonstrate and supervise any exercise routine and don’t forget the rule of ‘times four’ for those with specific learning needs (show them the routine four times).
Facial muscle tone is very similar and we rely heavily on this to do many things such as talk, eat, smile, frown, lick, blink, etc.  It is again important to exercise this area… encourage laughter as it works more facial muscles than any other activity, encourage games like blowing bubbles and also sucking drinks through a small straw… anything that gets the muscles working will improve many things, including verbal dyspraxia.
We require fine motor skill for many things including dressing… many will struggle with zips, buttons, belts and shoelaces.  Until they have sufficient strength avoid these, especially at school…you can buy special belts, Velcro shoes are great and jackets too.
This information is for guidance purposes only and we always recommend that you seek the relevant professional advice.
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