IF A CHILD IS ABLE, HE WILL

Posted March 20, 2012 by admin

I regularly receive referrals for children with difficulties related to handwriting, which are most often accompanied by concerns regarding poor attention to task and high activity level. I rarely directly assess handwriting skills, per say. I play some tabletop games with the child, which allows me to assess grasping and visual-motor development. I have them draw a person, which in my opinion reflects their perception of their own body. But for the most part I attend to how they use their body: how they sit in a chair, how long they can sit in a chair, the position in which they hold their head when they have a writing tool in their hand, or when they are looking at something on the table top, and hopefully there is time to also assess their movement patterns away from the table. Alas, this is not always possible, but neither is it critical – much can be learned through the interview process.

When I tell parents that one of the contributing factors to immature handwriting and poor attention to task is that their child is lacking in strength, more often than not they think I’m crazy. In response to this news I routinely hear statements along the line of, “How is that possible? He runs all day long!”

I see and hear the parent’s confusion, disbelief and down right disagreement with my assessment, so I offer this explanation: Movement requires far less strength than static positions and ‘fast’ is far easier than ‘slow’. Consider for a moment how you feel when you are required to stand in a line for a long period of time, or how it feels to stroll around the Expo Center at a home show, or even a store at the mall. Now consider how long you are able to sit in a chair without moving, shifting or getting up to get coffee. Does sitting in an upright chair for long periods make you tired?

When I see a child that runs everywhere rather than walk, who crashes to the floor or into a wall or into an adult rather than stop himself BEFORE crashing, who crashes involuntarily because momentum gets the best of him, I see a child who lacks core development and strength, and also usually, head control.

Adequate core strength and head control are critical to the child’s ability to walk in a controlled fashion, to avoid crashing and bumping into others, and importantly to sit still in a chair for prolonged periods of time in a manner that facilitates attention to task and thus learning. The ability to actively listen while sitting still, to maintain a flexed-neck position for reading and writing – to hold everything still while moving only a hand and arm while writing – well clearly it’s all more complicated than it first appears. Rest assured that if a child is able, he will and if he doesn’t, there is always a reason why.

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