Course:KIN366/ConceptLibrary/Agility

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Movement Experiences for Young Children
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KIN 366
Section: 001
Instructor: Dr. Shannon Bredin
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Agility is about being able to change the body’s position quickly and efficiently, and being able to do so in a wide range of different situation. It’s about being quick and nimble, it is the ability to change directions and gain speed without losing motor control. It is directly related to speed, balance and coordination skills (Mercer, 2003).

Children develop speed and agility at an early age, when they chase their friends or their family pet around the yard, and developing agility in children is a process that continues over a long period of time (Mercer, 2003). Agility along with balance and coordination (ABC’s) are valuable in almost all sports. Developing the ABC’s is an important part of physical literacy, and there are a number of activities in which they can be learned and refined (Higgs, Balyi, Way, Cardinal, Norris, & Bluchardt, n.d.). Doing so will better prepare children for participating in athletics in school, which is a big factor in combating childhood obesity. Participation in sports at an early age also helps children to work on important factors in their character, such as the ability to stay committed, to work with a team, and to reap the rewards of practicing and perfecting skills. Teams help build social character and confidence; and daily activity in extra-curricular activities has proven to motivate children academically (Wichita, 2013).


Child Development

During early childhood, children learn primarily through movement and physical manipulation of objects (Piaget, 1964). This helps them not only to develop physical skills, but assists in social and emotional development as well. Physical play enhances interrelationships among children, promoting early cooperation and communication skills (Sawyer, 2001). Play is essential to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well‐being of children and youth (Stork & and Sanders, 2008).

Preschoolers should develop competence in movement skills that are building blocks for more complex movement tasks, and this can be achieved through physical activity, which involves agility (Stork & and Sanders, 2008). Physical activity is crucial to overall development during early childhood (Stork & and Sanders, 2008). It promotes mastery of skills and attitudes that may lead to more healthful behaviors later in life, and it also facilitates cognitive and social development in ways that, due to the unique physiological and neurological limitations imposed by the proximity to infancy, cannot otherwise proceed (Stork & and Sanders, 2008).

Physiological Development

A lack of physical activity may result in incomplete physiological development (Stork & and Sanders, 2008). Physical activity, and activity involving balance and agility, in early childhood stimulate growth by supporting normal bone and muscle development (Stork & and Sanders, 2008). Further, combining the lack of sufficient physical activity with high caloric intake (an increasingly common phenomenon among children) leads to obesity (Stork & and Sanders, 2008).

Functional Motor Abilities

Children learn progressively, in stages, as the nervous and skeletal systems mature to a point that allows for motor learning at a given level of movement complexity (Stork & and Sanders, 2008). Further, mastery of fundamental skills (e.g., throwing, catching, hopping, skipping, bending, twisting) is a result of practice requiring both cognitive and physical effort (Stork & and Sanders, 2008). Therefore, movement patterns involving agility during early childhood appear unique but gradually mature into more adult‐like forms with sufficient experience, practice, and physiological development (Stork & and Sanders, 2008).

Educational Aspects

Some have suggested that the lack of fitness in young children may increase their risk for disease in adulthood (Boyer & Wilmore, 1984) and that the risk of degenerative disease can be reduced by regular exercise (Powell, Thompson, Caspersen, & Kendrick, 1987). Normal motor and psychological development is also contingent on regular physical activity (Vacarro, 1984). Children who are more physically active are better adapted socially and achieve better grades (Branta, Haubenstricker, & Seefeldt, 1984). Because aerobic exercise that incorporates balance and agility can be effectively included in preschool curricula at minimal cost to the school, and because children appear to enjoy the program, it seems to be a cost-effective form of intervention for facilitating the cardiovascular fitness and agility of very young children (Alpert, Field, Goldstein & Perry, 1990).

To guide young children toward becoming physically active for a lifetime, physical education experiences involving a wide array of disciplines including agility in early childhood must include (a) the learning of developmentally appropriate skills, (b) personnel trained in appropriate instructional practices for physical activity, (c) promotion of a positive and safe physical activity environment, including child‐sized equipment, and (d) an inclusive curriculum based on an understanding of movement concepts and skill themes (Stork & and Sanders, 2008).

Long-term Athlete Development

Enhancing the physical abilities of children throughout childhood and adolescence to maximize athletic success at an adult age is not a novel concept, as evidenced by earlier youth-based training programs (Bompa, 2000). Researchers have previously documented the importance of not treating children like “miniature adults” owing to clear differences in physical growth and stature (Faigenbaum, Kraemer, Blimkie, Jeffreys, Micheli, Nitka, Rowland, 2009). This alludes to the necessity of having individualized training programs, both for age-specific and child-specific contexts.

The long-term athlete development (LTAD) model takes into consideration the maturational status of the child and offers a more strategic approach to the athletic development of youth (Balyi & Hamilton, 2004). The LTAD model suggests that there exist critical “windows of opportunity” during the developmental years, whereby children and adolescents are more sensitive to training-induced adaptation (Balyi & Hamilton, 2004). The model also states that a failure to use these windows will result in the limitation of future athletic potential (Balyi & Hamilton, 2004). However, this concept is largely theoretical and lacks supporting longitudinal empirical evidence (Lloyd & Oliver, 2012).

Youth Development Model

A new evidence-based model has been proposed that attempts to fill in the gaps in information and applicability of the LTAD, and aims to demonstrate that most, if not all, fitness components are trainable throughout all of childhood (Lloyd & Oliver, 2012). This model is referred to as the Youth Physical Development Model, or YPD, and incorporates discussion regarding both functional movement skills (FMS), and sport-specific skills (SSS).

The topic of FMS development has received considerable interest owing to the close association between FMS competency, health and well-being, physical activity, and to a lesser degree physical performance (Lloyd & Oliver, 2012). Previous research has indicated that FMS development is essential to ensure that correct movement patterns are mastered in a safe and fun environment to ensure safe and effective performance of more complex sports movements at a later stage (Oliver & Lloyd, 2011). Functional Movement Skills have been viewed as the building blocks for sport-specific movement patterns and should typically be the focus of physical development programs for children from early childhood to develop gross motor skills (Deli, Bakle & Zachopoulou, 2006).

Agility is arguably one of the most under researched fitness components within the pediatric literature, despite the acknowledgment that a high degree of agility is required for optimal performance in the majority of sports (Jeffreys, 2006). Furthermore, a window of opportunity is not present within the current LTAD model (Balyi & Hamilton, 2004). Consequently, it is difficult to determine whether age, maturation, or both are determinants of agility performance. There is a lack of research that identifies appropriate time frames to target agility-specific training (Lloyd & Oliver, 2012). Therefore, the YPD model makes inferences in relation to the development of the subcomponents of agility: change of direction speed (inclusive of technique, straight sprinting speed, lower limb strength, and anthropometry) and cognitive function (perceptual and decision-making processes) (Lloyd & Oliver, 2012).

Change of Direction Speed

As lower limb strength and straight running speed are components of agility it is logical to look to develop agility and reinforce coordination and movement pattern accuracy during the early years (Young, James, Montgomery, 2002). Once a child reaches adolescence, they will typically experience further gains in strength through continued neural maturation and also significant increases in lean muscle mass, owing to increased serum androgen concentrations (Viru, Loko, Harro, Volver, Laaneaots & Viru, 1999). It is reasonable to suggest that adolescence will therefore serve as an opportune time to further develop agility, as peak force and peak rate of force development are likely to increase because of the adaptation in muscle structure. Pre-pubescence has also been identified as a period that sees children undergo rapid developments in the neuromuscular system, with the rates of brain maturation peaking between 6 and 8 and 10 and 12 years (Borms, 1986). Naturally, owing to the neural plasticity associated with pre-pubescence, this would seem an ideal opportunity to develop motor control programs inclusive of basic change of direction techniques in the first instance and then progressing to more sport-specific agility movements as the child approaches adolescence (Lloyd & Oliver, 2012).

Cognitive Function

According to Sheppard and Young, a number of perceptual variables influence agility (2006). Specifically, the authors state that visual scanning, knowledge of situations, pattern recognition, and anticipatory qualities influence individual agility performance (Sheppard & Young, 2006). Minimal literature exists examining the influence of growth and maturation on these components and their subsequent effects on agility performance (Lloyd & Oliver, 2012). Outside sporting situations, research suggests that cognitive capacities increase during late childhood and adolescence and that throughout these phases of development, repeated exposure to a given stimulus will result in faster response times because of an apparent strengthening of existing synaptic pathways (Casey, Giedd, & Thomas, 2000). Whether these theories translate to actual sporting situations, in which athletes will need to react rapidly to fluctuating stimuli (e.g. body position, bounce of ball, opposition movement), remains to be seen (Lloyd & Oliver, 2012).

It is expected that the locomotive vocabulary developed during the prepubescent phase will continuously be enhanced as the child progresses through adolescence and into adulthood, through an increase in experiential learning opportunities within sports-specific environments (Lloyd & Oliver, 2012). Given the lack of existing developmental literature, it is suggested that the training focus of agility should be made more challenging as the individual progresses through childhood and into adulthood, with the use of more open and unplanned training methods to continually overload the training stimulus (Lloyd & Oliver, 2012). Additionally, with an increase in training demands within an overall athletic schedule, it is expected that agility development (and maintenance) will be garnered from specific sports skill-based sessions, where movement demands replicate the exact locomotive demands of the sport (Lloyd & Oliver, 2012).

Training

Children's speed and agility training programs should be developed in age-appropriate stages. Children between the ages of 5 and 8 should be exposed to a variety of movement patterns, which include arm and leg movements performed from a stationary position, jumping moves and exercise that promote spatial awareness. Skill mastery is enhanced between ages 9 and 13 (Mercer, 2013). This will better prepare children for participating in athletics in school, which is a big factor in combating childhood obesity. Participation in sports at an early age also helps children to work on important factors in their character, such as the ability to stay committed, to work with a team, and to reap the rewards of practicing and perfecting skills. Teams help build social character and confidence; and daily activity in extra-curricular activities has proven to motivate children academically. With this in mind, you are probably wondering what you can do to help your children train their speed and agility skills during these important developmental years (Wichita, 2013).

This process should start as soon as the child can crawl by providing opportunities to crawl on different surfaces, and to crawl on and around different obstacles. Once the child can walk and then run, things continue in the same way. Have a child walk and then run on flat and not-so-flat surfaces, uphill and downhill, and again over and around many different types of obstacle. Chasing and dodging games where the child has to start and stop quickly help to develop agility, and the child should be encouraged to stop, start and change direction as quickly as possible. Kicking and chasing a ball is a good and simple way to develop agility, particularly if the surface is a bit rough and makes the ball bounce in different directions (Active start, No date).


Activities for Infants

Head Games

Rapid head turning to follow an object takes time and practice. Start by holding a black and white high-contrast design or toy so the infant can see it. When you are sure the infant is looking at the object or design, move it slowly from Baby's right to left and back again. With older infants (six to eight months) who can sit in a high chair, hang a moving crib toy within reach so they can both track the movement and reach with their hands. Remember, things that move too quickly for the eye to follow are going to be too fast for the hand to grab. Begin working on balance with older infants as you pull them to a standing position and hold them at the waist. You're helping them begin to feel the movements necessary to balance their bodies (Strickland, n.d.).

Fine Motor Activities

You can help to build your infant's fine motor skills with simple activities that help to increase typical hand and finger movements of this stage, for example, taking objects out and putting them in a container or poking an object with the index finger. One easy activity is filling a play bucket with baby toys or soft blocks. Have your child reach in and take out the objects, then place them back into the bucket. To increase finger control and coordination, give your little one a thick crayon to hold onto and scribble with (Loop, 2014).

Gross Motor Activities

Your infant might not have the ability to walk yet, but she is starting to sit and even crawl. By 7 months most babies can sit unassisted and crawl or pull themselves up to standing -- while holding on to furniture -- by the end of the first year. The national child development organization Zero to Three suggests that parents support the infant's gross motor development by providing tummy time -- beginning soon after birth -- to help arm, back and muscle strength. Additionally, placing interesting or colorful toys just outside of the baby's reach will make her want to move and explore her environment (Loop, 2014).

Activities for Toddlers

Snake Walking

Use a 20-30 foot length of 1/2-inch rope laid out in a zigzag pattern on a stable walking surface (floor or level ground). Get children to walk along "the snake" as fast as they can without stepping on or over the snake. The faster (more agile) and more controlled their movements are, the better they'll be able to balance and avoid stepping on or over the rope. Since toddlers are great at mimicking-everything from facial expressions to sounds and movements perform exaggerated movements such as giant steps or "heavy" walking and encourage toddlers to follow you (Strickland, n.d.).

Fine Motor Activities

As your child moves into the toddler years, you can help to build up his fine motor skills with more complex, in comparison to the infant stage, manipulative activities. The AAP recommends giving 2-year-old toddlers blocks -- up to six -- to build a tower with or using books as motor helpers. Thick board books are ideal for practicing skills such as lifting and turning pages. Like older infants, toddlers enjoy using crayons to color and draw with. Although your toddler will still scribble, he may make more purposeful marks and may have the ability to draw lines in different directions on his own (Loop, 2014).

Gross Motor Activities

Now that your toddler is up and on his feet, walking and running, he is ready for more sophisticated types of gross motor play. Movement games, rhymes and dances such as the Hokey Pokey are perfect for 1- and 2-year-olds who are developing muscle control, agility and coordination. Turn on your child's favorite song and free dance to get your little learner up and active or try a more controlled game of Follow the Leader in which you walk and hop around and have your child follow (Loop, 2014).

Activities for Preschoolers

Dances With Scarves

Scarves can be a great too for promoting agility and balance among preschoolers. Give each child a scarf and have the children toss the scarves as high into the air as they can and then run under the scarves and catch them. Because scarves flutter and fall in an erratic manner, this prevents opportunities for children to be agile and use balance skills as they twist, turn, and stop to catch the scarves. For added challenge, have children try to catch the scarves while hopping or skipping. Have children throw their scarves up with one hand and catch them in the other (Strickland, n.d.).

Activities for Kindergartners

Dodge Ball With a Twist

Enjoy the challenge of dodge ball as a way to develop agility and balance. For a twist on the traditional version, try "medic" dodge ball. Divide your class into two even groups and place a rope on the ground between them. Designate a "medic" on each team and identify the medic with a scarf tied around his arm. Give each child a utility ball. The object is to hit the medic without getting hit and without crossing the rope. If a child gets hit, the medic can touch him and restore the child to action. If the medic gets hit, the game is over. Children are using a variety of skills in this game: strength (to throw the ball) and agility and balance (to avoid getting hit) (Strickland, n.d.).

Activities for Early - Late Elementary School (6-12 years)

Ladder Tag

Use a footwork ladder for a fast-paced and challenging variation of tag. Keep in mind that this game should only be attempted once the children can quickly and confidently run through the ladders with balance and control. A minimum of two athletes are needed. Set up two half ladders parallel to one another and about 10 feet apart. Start one athlete at the end of one ladder and the second athlete diagonally opposite at the other end of the second ladder. On command, both athletes run in a clockwise direction through the ladders trying to catch up with the other. Score one point for each tag, but subtract points for skipping rungs or kicking the ladder. Limit time to 20 or 30 seconds per game (Offcourt, 2014).

Cone Pursuit

This competitive and challenging game needs two young athletes. Designate one as the rabbit and the other as the hound. Cones of some sort are needed for this exercise. 

Set a handful of cones up in any arrangement desired. The rabbit begins first with a one, two, or three-second head start, depending on the speed of each player. The rabbit must weave through the cones without being caught and tagged by the hound who must follow the pattern of the rabbit exactly. Players can switch roles and mismatches can easily be balanced by adjusting the length of the head start. With a large group, a round robin or double elimination tournament can make this quite competitive. This game helps build the agility skills needed for basketball, football, soccer, and many other activities (Offcourt, 2014).

Circle Run

“Circle Run” is a great drill for athletes to either perform alone or in a competitive format. You’ll need a smooth surface and a tennis ball. The exercise begins when a coach or partner rolls a ball from one side towards a boundary of some sort about 40 feet away (the distance is flexible). As soon as the ball is rolled, the runner moves to and around the ball as many times as possible before the ball reaches the designated boundary. Two players or a group can easily participate to see which player can move around the ball the most times. Optionally, use a basketball or soccer ball. Like all the drills in this section, this game helps build the agility skills needed for basketball, football, soccer, and many other activities (Offcourt, 2014).

Double Trouble

This next exercise is similar to the “Circle Run” in this section, but you’ll need two balls instead of one. This drill can be so challenging that we like to call it “Double Trouble.” The partner, parent, or coach begins alongside the runner at a starting point about 50 feet from an assigned finish line (the distance is flexible). Roll two balls, both of which the player must catch before they hit the designated finish line (such as a garage door if rolling the balls along a home driveway). Another interesting alternative is for the teacher or partner to roll two balls of different colors and wait until the player is running at full speed before calling out which color they must pick up. They can even be balls of different sizes to add extra fun and creativity. Quickness, agility, and decision-making skills will be tested and developed in this exercise (Offcourt, 2014).

Hoop and Step

This agility exercise requires a hoop, which is rolled away from the student. You will also need a fairly flat surface on which the hoop can easily roll. The goal is for the runner to move alongside the hoop stepping through the moving hoop with either the right or the left foot as often as possible as it is rolling. As the young athletes get more proficient, have them step through the hoop in patterns such as every second or third step. To make it competitive, each step through the hoop earns one point. On a flat surface, the most agile athletes can take as many as 10 steps through the rolling hoop before it falls (Offcourt, 2014).

Falling Racquets

This exercise requires both quick movement and quick hands. We are suggesting tennis racquets in this exercise, but a baseball bat or anything with a fairly flat end will work just as easily. Just make sure the object will not quite stand up under its own power. (Note: If you choose to use a tennis racquet, place it on the ground with the handle side pointing straight up.) Players are set up in pairs, each holding their own racquet with the handle pointing up. On cue they both release their racquets and switch places, trying to catch their partner’s racquet before it falls to the ground. Like many other games, this exercise can easily be adapted to challenge older children by simply starting them further apart from one another. For extra fun, create some competition with several pairs of players competing at the same time. Like all the drills in this section, this game helps build the agility skills needed for tennis, baseball, basketball, football, soccer, and many other activities (Offcourt, 2014).

Speed Bumps

In this agility drill, the emphasis is on rhythm and balance training alongside agility. And, like almost all the drills posted in these sections, it can be easily adapted to young athletes of all ages and skill levels. Just be sure to remember that one of the goals of all of these exercises is to help children develop confidence and self-esteem through success. Especially at younger ages, keep the children successful so they have more fun and are eager to come back for more. 

For this exercise you will need a footwork-ladder such as the KidzLadder as well as Dome Cones or Spots. Use spots for the youngest children and cones or even up to 12-inch hurdles for older ones. Place several cones randomly on the footwork ladder and have the kids first simply walk as quickly as possible through the ladder skipping the rungs where the cones have been placed. 

After they develop a feel for the pattern, have them speed up until they are racing through the course (Offcourt, 2014).

The Whistle

In this exercise you will use a whistle to create agility challenges. There are unlimited variations, as you will quickly realize. Just use a little imagination. You will also need a fairly flat running surface and a line to run along. Just have the junior athlete run on one side of the line and when the parent or coach blows a whistle, the junior simply changes to running on the other side of the line. One variation is to perform the same drill with side shuffles as well. And, you can also perform the same shuffle drill with 180-degree turns and switching sides of the line at the same time. Again, this is a terrific agility building as well as reaction-and-response drill that will improve performance in many movement sports (Offcourt, 2014).

Triplets

“Triplets” is a concept in agility footwork training and consists of a variety of movement patterns to help both footwork and rhythm. You will need a fairly flat surface as well as a line for this exercise. First, try running forwards alternating three steps on each side of the line. Another variation is performed sideways and requires two steps on one side of the line and one step on the other. Another variation is to hop with both feet twice on one side and once on the other. Skipping can also be converted into a triplet pattern; first, three times on each side of the line while moving forwards. Then, try a much more difficult skill-builder. Have your athlete skip across the line every third skip, while moving along the line sideways. The variations are endless. Just use your imagination and have fun! (Offcourt, 2014).

1-on-1 Drills

This concept of drills features two athletes facing one another, each on their own set of at least two dots. To create dots, you can use chalk on a driveway, throw down spots, or a Dot Movement Mat. Each exercise is timed for 10 seconds or another desired length depending on the fitness levels of the athletes. There are dozens of variations. Try starting with a relatively simple movement pattern such as stepping onto one dot with one foot and off the dot with two. Another option is a one foot on and one foot off pattern. To have a competition, have the children keep count how many times they step onto the dot during the allotted time. A third option of the numerous possibilities is to have them do a one-foot in and two feet out pattern with skipping. Remember that agility and movement sports go hand-in-hand, and that gradually speeding up through the performance of each of these exercises is the key. In this drill, the natural extra incentive of facing a partner and competing for speed (while accurately performing the exercise) should be a positive motivation for both young athletes. If they are clearly of different skill levels, give one a handicap of a certain number of points before the exercise begins (Offcourt, 2014).

Principles for Addressing Agility Training in Children

In the younger ages we should be focusing on developing a very broad foundation, less structure, more variety and randomization in our agility patterns. We should start with the primary movements associated with various means of acceleration, change of direction, change of direction at varying angles and change of pace. Then by the time the players have mastered each of these aspects, we should increase our expectations or change the environment to include reactive measures, visual scanning, and situational elements. Finally, as they reach a point of mastery, we should include a technical element (as they should also be technically proficient in basic skills (dribbling, passing, shooting, etc.). This progressive, integrated approach can create a developmental structure that allows for improvements in both speed/agility as well as on-field/on-court application of these skills (Soccer Fit Academy, 2012).

Simply put, start with the movement/rhythm, then change the tempo, direction/distance and reactive target, and finally focus in on how these movements relate to game simulated execution (Soccer Fit Academy, 2012).

Keeping in mind that your child is still young and learning, it would be helpful to set up a fun but rigorous routine for him or her to learn. It can involve running through cones in a zig-zag formation, sprints and obstacle courses. Anything that involves focus, speed and coordination will contribute greatly to their development, but make sure you are not holding them to the same expectations that you would hold yourself. Children are still neurologically developing their coordination abilities, so it is likely that they will struggle with some of the drills you have in mind. Stay positive, motivational and understanding! If your child can’t perform a certain drill, scale it back to their ability so they can be confident in what they are learning. Coordination, speed and agility is as much about confidence and motivation as anything else, so make sure your child is having fun and enjoys what he or she is doing (Wichita, 2013).

You can’t teach agility in a single session, but you can allow a child to develop it systematically by providing opportunities for the child to move from one spot to another using as wide a range of locomotor skills as possible (Soccer Fit Academy, 2012).

Children not only increase speed, agility and coordination when consistently participating in extra-curricular activities, but they also learn to thrive socially. While consistent programs are likely more effective than playgrounds, playgrounds are highly motivational for children, and the free-style atmosphere can be a great way for kids to come up with creative ways to be active with one another (Wichita, 2013).

Avoid forcing your child to perform training drills that are inappropriate for his level of development. Doing so may cause permanent injuries or make your child adverse to any type of physical activity. Experiment with different activities. The child who does not like to toss a ball may enjoy rhythmic musical activities (Mercer, 2013).

Disorders Affecting Agility in Children

Bloom’s Syndrome (BS)

A rare disorder, which can be classified by two main features:

▪ Usually small in size, both before and after birth. During infancy and early childhood, fat tissue is exceptionally sparse, and unusual and unexplained lack of interest in feeding doubtless contributing to this. Body proportions are approximately normal as is muscular development and this paired with a lack of fat tissue often gives the affected child unusual agility and grace.

▪ A sun sensitive, red skin lesion affecting the face almost exclusively. It varies in severity from mild to severe. Sometimes the backs of the hands and forearms are mildly affected (German, Sanz, & Eberhand, n.d.).

Bloom’s Syndrome (BS) is a genetic trait; the affected person has inherited each of his/her parents mutation in the Bloom’s Syndrome gene, this gene is named BLM. Those who carry only one mutated BLM gene follow a normal-healthy developmental path. In order to be classified with Bloom’s Disease the carrier must possess two mutated BLM genes. The risk for diagnosis of BS is 1 in 4 (25%). There are more than 60 different BS-causing mutations (German, Sanz, & Eberhand, n.d.).

There is no treatment available to stabilize the genome of the cells of persons with BS, and medical intervention aimed at improving growth in BS has been unsuccessful. Growth Hormone production is normal in those with BS, and so it’s administration has had little if any effect (German, Sanz, & Eberhand, n.d.).

Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD)

A chronic and usually permanent condition found in children, is characterized by motor impairment that interferes with the child’s activities of daily living and academic achievement. This includes a disruption in their gross motor, fine motor, and psychosocial abilities. Children suffering from DCD have also been categorized under the following terms “clumsy”, “motorically awkward”, “motor impaired”, “physically awkward”, and have been classified as having “developmental apraxia” and “perceptual motor difficulties” (Barnhart, Davenport, Epps, & Nordqvist, 2003).

In order for a child to be diagnosed with DCD, these motor impairments must negatively affect some other aspect of his or her life. Impairment alone does not qualify a child for diagnosis of DCD; the motor impairment must not be caused by or have the symptoms of an identifiable neurological problem. As in the child must not have any disturbances in muscle tone, sensory loss, or involuntary movements (Barnhart, Davenport, Epps, & Nordqvist, 2003).

DCD appears to be a fairly common disorder of childhood and is usually identified in children between 6 and 12 year of age, and boys are more prevalent than girls to develop DCD (Sugden & Chambers, 1998). Children’s difficulties with coordination can result from a combination of one or more impairments in proprioception, motor programming, timing, or sequencing of muscle activity (Barnhart, Davenport, Epps, & Nordqvist, 2003).

The current treatment for DCD have followed two different approaches; the first being the top-down approach where a problem-solving approach to motor skill development is used. This approach suggests that motor skills develop from an interaction of many systems, both internal and external to the child. Task-specific intervention and cognitive approaches or strategies are the two most commonly used methods. The second is a bottom-up approach, which is based on hierarchical theories of motor control. These theories tend to explain the remediation of motor dysfunction through activation of higher levels of neuronal functioning in a child. Typically when the bottom-up approach is being used sensory integration, the process-oriented treatment approach, and perceptual motor training is administered with the child (Barnhart, Davenport, Epps, & Nordqvist, 2003).

Cerebral Palsy (CP)

CP may be the result of an injury to the developing brain, at any time during pregnancy, birth, or until the age of 3. The injury to the brain interferes with messages from the brain to the body affecting movement and muscle coordination. CP does not damage a child’s muscles or the nerves connecting them to the spinal cord – only the brain’s ability to control the muscles (Fox, 2006).

Depending on how much of the brain was affected, the effects of CP vary widely from individual to individual. At it’s mildest; CP may result in a slight awkwardness of movement of hand control. At its most severe, CP may result in virtually no muscle control, profoundly affecting movement and speech (Fox, 2006).

Doctors diagnose Cerebral Palsy by testing an infant’s motor skills and looking carefully at the infant’s medical history. In addition to checking for symptoms of slow development, abnormal muscle tone, and unusual posture, a physician also tests the infant’s reflexes and looks for early development of hand preference. A child with CP will probably be delayed in reaching his/her “milestones” such as rolling over, sitting and standing. A baby may feel unusually stiff or floppy. A diagnosis of CP in unlikely to be given until the child’s progress is observed over a period of time and other conditions are ruled out (Fox, 2006).

Cerebral Palsy is not curable, but there is much that can be done to lessen the effects of CP and to help people lead independent lives. Management of CP is done through therapy interventions, medications, botox injections, surgery and the use of wheel chairs, communication devices, and educational supports (Fox, 2006).

References

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Balyi, I., Hamilton, A. (2004). Long-term athlete development: Trainability in childhood and adolescence—windows of Opportunity—optimal trainability. Victoria, Canada: National Coaching Institute British Columbia & Advanced Training and Performance Ltd, 2004.

Barnhart, R.C., Davenport, M.J., Epps, S.B., Nordqvist, V.M. (2003). Developmental coordination disorder. Physical Therapy Journal. 83: 722-731. Retrieved from http://www.ptjournal.apta.org/content/83/8/722.full

Bompa, T.O. (2000). Total training for young champions. Human Kinetics, pp. 21–31.

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