This information is purely to allow a reader to identify or empathise with a child’s coordination challenges they may want to know a little more about. It is not intended to replace a consultation with an appropriately qualified medical practitioner.
Part of our motivation as humans to be upright and to walk is found in the desire to gain access to things that are out of arms’ reach. A child notes that people that walk can get closer to items out of that child’s own reach. The child sees that as one walks over to an object, the object is positioned closer to the body.
The child also begins to understand that from far away, an object looks smaller while from close-up, the object looks larger. In short, a child gains with age and experience, an understanding of the proximity of items and people in relation to his own physical self. He gains mastery over his own movement as he grows in the understanding of his own personal space. He controls his limbs with ever greater precision.
A child with poor spatial awareness will likely be found to have difficulties with his visual perception. Such a child may be clumsy, often bumping into things. He may stand too far away from or too close to objects.
It may be difficult for such a child to master the act of writing which involves measuring the distance between pencil and paper and knowing how much pressure must be applied to make legible marks. A child with such perceptual difficulties may furthermore not be able to distinguish between right and left. By extension, the child will tend to have difficulties in gym and in playing games involving external apparatus (balls, bats, the goal).
As for subject matter, children with spatial awareness issues may find mathematics difficult. This is due to its abstract nature, when space, shapes, area and volume enter the picture. Children with spatial awareness issues will find it a trial to copy shapes, patterns, and sequences.
However, children with spatial awareness difficulties tend to have strong auditory memory skills. They may excel at music and do well at learning when taught using multisensory methods. Their verbal comprehension skills exceed those of their peers and they have excellent powers of both verbal and non-verbal reasoning.
Coordination is an ability that begins developing “on its own” as infants explore their bodies and their world. Coordination in children usually refers to whether they can get their arms and legs to work together effectively! Whether playing games, taking part in sport or doing schoolwork, coordination skills are a must.
Many tasks which require coordination also require a child to be able to plan well – being able to time their movements, predict what will happen if they do something and react to a situation (e.g a ball coming at them more slowly than expected). Balance, rhythm, spatial orientation and the ability to react to both auditory and visual stimuli have all been identified as elements of coordination.
Bilateral coordination is the ability to use both sides of the body together in a coordinated way, e.g both hands working together to push a rolling pin or pulling hand-over-hand up a rope. Children with poor bilateral coordination may struggle with gross motor games such as hopping, jumping, catching a ball or beating a drum with rhythm.
They may struggle with fine motor tasks such as tying shoelaces, threading beads and cutting with scissors, as these all require both hands to work together well – dexterity.
Hand-eye coordination is the ability of the eyes to guide the hands in movements, e.g catching a ball and being able to hit a ball with a bat, but many parents don’t realise that good hand-eye coordination can also help a child’s handwriting.
Balance is the ability to maintain control of a particular body position whilst performing a given task with minimal postural sway. This could be achieved simply by sitting at a table, standing on one leg or riding a bike. Good control reduces the energy required and minimises fatigue. To perform efficient movements across a host of activities and tasks, we need to be able to maintain control of body positioning during static and dynamic activities thus needing good static and dynamic balance.
Static balance is the ability to maintain control of a position whilst remaining stationary – for example, balancing on one leg or holding a headstand.
Dynamic balance is the ability to maintain balance and control of the body whilst moving, such as hopping, jumping, riding a bike or snowboarding.
Although balance maturation is not generally achieved in children until the age of 12, by improving balance and sensory processing skills, children with healthy vestibular systems can excel and those with challenges or weaknesses can improve dramatically.
If your child is showing signs of lack of coordination, you should seek the advice of a doctor or other suitably qualified professional.
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The Sunflower Trust