Motor planning is part of a group of skills that help us move our body the way we intend to. This requires observing and understanding the task (ideation), planning out an action in response to the task (organisation), and the act of carrying out the task (execution). There are different kinds of motor skills that we use repeatedly throughout our lifetime, including:
1. Gross motor skills:
Gross motor skills help us to move our large muscles so that we can perform actions including: walking, jumping, balancing, throwing, and activities such as riding a bike or scooter.
2. Fine motor skills:
Fine motor skills refers to the coordination of our hands, involving small muscles that control our hands, wrists and fingers. These actions can include: grasping a pencil, tying shoelaces, holding a toothbrush and brushing teeth, using scissors, washing hands, kicking a ball, wiping after using the toilet, using a knife and fork, and fastening buttons and zips.
3. Sequencing motor tasks:
This refers to the ability to recognise and remember the steps involved in planning and carrying out tasks, such as performing the steps involved to get dressed, brush your teeth, or go to the toilet.
A difficulty with any of these areas will lead to dyspraxia in many skill areas (self care, leisure and productivity). Children with dyspraxia have difficulties in planning and completing fine and gross motor tasks. This can range from simple motor movements, such as walking, to more complex ones like sequencing steps to brushing teeth.
Signs that your child may have Dyspraxia (challenges with motor planning):
Differences in speech
Poor hand-eye coordination
Difficulty tying shoelaces, doing up buttons and zips
Difficulty with using cutlery
Difficulty getting dressed and sequencing the steps
Problems carrying out playground movements, such as jumping, playing sports, throwing and catching, hopping, and skipping
Challenges with processing thoughts
Difficulties with concentration
Higher tendency to bump into surroundings, tend to fall over more frequently than other children their age
Writing stories can be much more challenging as well as copying writing from a whiteboard/smart board
Challenging to maintain friendships
Difficulty maintaining appropriate pencil grip when handwriting
How can I support my child with motor planning:
Ask your child to tell you the sequence of activities recently completed
Practice deciding what comes first, next and last (let them lead), and then follow through
Use a map to find objects hidden indoors or outdoors, and have a checklist as your child finds each toy/piece/game
Minimise visual clutter/distractions when completing table top activities
Ask your child questions of what they are going to do and how they are going to do it.
Encourage your child to verbalise what they are doing while carrying out the activity
Playing games such as Simon says/follow the leader and peek-a-boo
Practice throwing, jumping, riding a bike
Playing games such as archery, ball games and hopscotch
Please speak to your Occupational Therapist if you believe your child is experiencing motor planning difficulties or if you have any other questions regarding motor planning skills.