October 2, 2016

Motor PlanningHave you ever noticed or wondered why some children are able to ‘pick up’ skills and do things after trying them only a few times so easily, while other children practice these skills over and over and never seem to get it? While there can be multiple reasons for why some children have more difficulty with these tasks, motor planning is a skill that has a great effect on a child’s ability to do everyday activities. In fact, every activity we do that uses muscles requires some level of motor planning.

3 Steps of Motor Planning

It may seem as simple as telling your body, hand, arm, or leg to move a certain way, but motor planning is made up of 3 major steps:

1. Motor Ideation: where your brain comes up with a thought of what it wants to do (ex: scooping ice cream into a bowl)

2. Motor Planning: where your brain comes up with a plan of how it wants to move the body, what muscles need to move, when the muscles need to move, and organizing the steps to complete the task (ex: thinking of the supplies you need to scoop ice cream into the bowl and how you are going to do this with your hand/arm muscles)

3. Motor Execution: the brain sends your muscles messages of how and when to move and your body does it (ex: removing the top to the ice cream, picking up the scoop, scooping the ice cream, putting the scoop in a bowl)

Well that seems simple, right?

If your child has trouble with any one of these steps, it can and will impact their ability to be independent with many activities, such as:

  • Putting socks and shoes on
  • Holding a pencil and copying site words from the board
  • Following mom’s directions to clean up
  • Using a spoon and fork to eat lunch
  • Riding a bike
  • Following dad’s directions to throw away a piece of trash
  • Walking down the hallway at school
  • Brushing teeth
  • Buttoning a shirt
  • Following mom AND dad’s directions…together

All of these are pretty easy tasks and that most of us take for granted. Motor planning issues can also be intensified by sensory processing/modulation, weakness, communication, and cognitive delays. Children who have motor planning issues are often described as ‘clumsy’ or have ‘behavioral’ issues, since it appears they cannot or do not want to do a task. The main reason is they simply cannot motor plan how to do it. This leads to more frustration and greatly affects their self-esteem, confidence, and motivation with many simple, everyday, age-appropriate activities.