School-Aged Children

     This page has key information to help parents and school-based therapists dealing with Preschoolers and Kindergartners who missed motor milestones and lack developmental readiness.

Correcting Deficiencies in Preschool Prevents Years of Academic Struggling

Ms. Jennings has worked in school-based therapy programs with students 0-22 since 1980. Her programs with the children with learning disabilities, developmental delays, or Ausperger’s Syndrome have been extremely successful. She found that best results were obtained if she could work in a team approach with the preschoolers. When the whole educational team (administration, teachers, psychologists, speech pathologists, occupational therapists) understood that subtle gross motor deficiencies might be impacting the success of a child, an entire program was utilized to help the child be ready for kindergarten. When the teachers or psychologist noted any unusual motor patterns during preschool screening, a full battery of evaluations was done by PT, OT, and Speech Pathologists. The 3 year old child might walk well, run well, and climb very well, but the following mannerisms indicated that early developmental “holes” warranted further evaluation by the entire special education team. These things that the child could not do are red flags.

  • Would not assume or tolerate being placed on his belly on the floor.
  • Would not be able to do a log roll on the floor after demonstration.
  • Would cling to the parent and not be able to interact with a stranger or even work with the parent.
  • Would not respond to verbal directives or seem to understand spoken language.
  • Would not be able to do the requested gross motor tasks of walking backward, sideways, or on a line even after demonstration.
  • Sensory issues reported by the parent became triggers for a sensory evaluation. Even gifted children can have academic challenges if they have severe sensory integration problems.

Increasing the gross motor core strength, integrating retained infant reflexes, and decreasing sensory defensiveness consistently helped:
– Self esteem go up
– Attention and focus improve
– Impulsivity decrease
– Weird mannerisms dissipate
– Cognitive processing improve

    Because of the Back To Sleep Program in 1992, new parents have been both afraid to place a baby on the tummy and mis-informed about all the optimal positions that allow a baby to develop adequate extensor strength against gravity. This lack of optimal positioning before six months can affect school readiness at 3 years.

The Clumsy Child Syndrome Presentation (Clumsy-Child-and-School-Success.pdf, 1.2MB) shows why gross motor deficiencies will affect learning in the classroom and what therapy strategies Ms Jennings used with her students. Parents may want to find a pediatric PT familiar with these strategies if they feel their child might benefit.

Therapists can get 4 CEU’s for the course , “Developmental and Sensory Motor Strategies in School-Based Programs” from Presenters: Judy Towne Jennings, PT, MA and Candace Yates, OTR/L MS

When parents and therapists purposely recreate positioning opportunities for little bodies to integrate the milestones, learning and behaviors improve:

Opportunities to:

Roll like a log in a straight line, over cushions and mats

Crawl like an alligator with reciprocal movement of R. Arm and L. Leg moving together.

Play Kitty Kat in the all 4’s position over cushions, around obstacles, into and out of a tunnel.

Practice balance with 1 foot standing (Both sides)

Develop crossing midlines (R. hand reaches to touch L. knee when balancing on R. foot.)

If a child is really struggling in school, the parent has the right to ask for a conference to get help from the school personnel. An evaluation by the school psychologist is usually the first step to setting up an individual program for your child. An individual plan might include modifications in the paper work ie 10 math problems instead of 50. Other participants in the plan may be a physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech and language pathologist, and a teacher assistant. Many students I have worked with who needed an individual plan through school, eventually graduated from college.

It is important for parents and professionals to understand that early baby development affects academic performance in preschool and kindergarten. And certainly if the core strength deficiencies are not corrected in kindergarten, the problems can follow the child all the way through school. We don’t know the cause of sensory issues, but assuredly, when present, learning is VERY difficult.

The incidence of core strength problems in a preschooler was 25-30% in our mid-western middle-class school district.

Children with speech problems should be evaluated for core strength problems as well!!!



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