Course:KIN366/ConceptLibrary/Newell's Model of Constraints

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Movement Experiences for Children
KIN 366
Instructor: Dr. Shannon S.D. Bredin
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Newell's Model of Constraints, developed in 1986, suggests that all movements occur based on three factors; the interactions of the organism, the environment in which it occurs, and the task being performed (Haywood & Getchell, 2009). If one of these factors change, the overall movement pattern of the action changes as well (Haywood & Getchell, 2009). This model is important in understanding human motor behaviour and potential reasons for hindering a movement.


Newell's Model is characterized by three main factors; individual constraints, environmental constraints, and task constraints (Haywood & Getchell, 2009).

Individual Constraints

Individual constraints are the characteristics of an individual, both physically and mentally (Haywood & Getchell, 2009). For instance, height, weight and motivation can all be classified as individual constraints (Haywood & Getchell, 2009). Individual constraints have two subdivisions: structural constraints and functional constraints. Structural constraints refer to the constraints relating to the individuals body structure (Haywood & Getchell, 2009). Functional constraints refer to the behavioral aspect of an individual, such as, motivation, fear, and focus (Haywood & Getchell, 2009).

Environmental Constraints

Environmental constraints are any constraints outside the body itself (Haywood & Getchell, 2009). These constraints include any physical constraints outside the body, as well as sociocultural constraints (Haywood & Getchell, 2009). Factors such as temperature, humidity and gravity are all considered environmental constraints (Haywood & Getchell, 2009).

Task Constraints

Task constraints are constraints which are also external to the body, but refer to things such as the goals that are specific to a task (Haywood & Getchell, 2009). Factors such as goals of a task, rules of a game and even the equipment used for a task are all considered to be task constraints (Haywood & Getchell, 2009).

Importance of the Model

This model is very important in understanding and helping develop the motor behaviour of an individual. In understanding the model, an individual or someone instructing an individual can help gain appropriate skills needed to complete a movement. Similarly, the model permits us to observe an individual and their movements throughout age-related changes (Haywood & Getchell, 2009). For example, the way a toddler walks, versus the way an adult walks can be very different due to individual constraints (Haywood & Getchell, 2009). Likewise, the way an individual moves across a dry surface versus a slippery one is also different due to environmental constraints (Haywood & Getchell, 2009).

Practical Applications

Newell's model can be applied practically in all sorts of sporting or movement development scenarios. Although individual constraints cannot easily be manipulated, task constraints can and often are manipulated to aid in learning a behaviour. For instance, performing a soccer dribbling skill within an enclosed area would force the participants to acquire more precise dribbling skills (Araujo et al., 2004). Similarly when working with children, manipulating the environment, such as the height of a stair, could lead to the child developing a new skill in order to complete their intended action. Many physical educators can also use the model in assessing and helping children with disabilities (Pope et al., 2012). The model itself can also be a guide for these educators in creating a lesson plan fit for all students in order to gain optimal motor development skills (Pope et al., 2012).

Constraints and Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

When working with individuals on movement patterns and motor development, it is important to assess the constraints that are needed to overcome. These constraints are different to each individual and depend on environmental, as well as subjective factors. Although these constraints are unique to each individual, children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), exhibit some similar individual constraints across the board (Pope et al., 2012).

Individual Constraints and ASD

Although one cannot fully manipulate individual constraints, it is possible to assess these constraints and manipulate the environment, or task in order to achieve the movement needed. One of these constraints includes toe walking; bearing the weight on one's toes during the stance phase of walking (Pope et al., 2012). Educators can manipulate the environment such as the surface being walked on, in order to change gait patterns to avoid toe walking, and in turn, develop an appropriate gait pattern (Pope et al., 2012).

Environmental Constraints and ASD

Environmental changes can be key in acquiring new motor skills, and when dealing with children with ASD, a crowded, noisy environment may lead to sensory overload for the child (Pope et al., 2012). Moving the child to a quieter, lower lit location may be beneficial in developing new motor patterns (Pope et al., 2012). Although some constraints might be individual constraints, or task constraints, changing the environment to avoid such factors as anxiety can be very helpful when working with children with ASD (Pope et al., 2012).

Task Constraints and ASD

Many task constraints may exist when working with any individual in developing a new skill. In children with ASD for instance, the equipment being used may cause for rigid movements, like a basketball being too large (Pope et al., 2012). In order to change the child's movement, an instructor can provide a smaller or lighter ball to practice with (Pope et al., 2012). Sometimes, the constraint could be a combination of environmental and task constraints. For example, a child playing tennis outdoors (Pope et al., 2012). The child may be experiencing difficulties due to the noisy and bright environment, as well as the size and speed of a tennis ball, or the weight of a racket (Pope et al., 2012). To minimize constraints such as these, an educator may change the setting in which the action is taking place (ie, move indoors), and, or, change the size of the ball being used in order to slow down the movements to allow for optimal development (Pope et al., 2012).


In conclusion, Newell's Model of Constraints is very important in understanding movement patterns among children. It is important to understand that any change in either individual constraints, environmental constraints, or task constraints, will automatically change the entire movement pattern being performed (Haywood & Getchell, 2009). Likewise, it is important to understand that each individual will deal with unique constraints. Educators need to be able to assess these constraints, in order to develop an appropriate lesson plan, to ensure optimal skill development for all children (Pope et al., 2012). Finally, the model can be very beneficial when working with children with disabilities, in order to manipulate tasks and environments to minimize constraints (Pope et al., 2009).


Araujo, D., Keiths, D., Bennett, S. J., Button, C., & Chapman, G., (2004). Emergence of sport skills under constraints. In M. A. Williams & N. J. Hodges (Eds.), Skill Acquisition in sport: Research, theory and practice (409-433). Routledge. Haywood, K. M., & Getchell, N., (2009). Life span motor development (5th ed.). U.S.A. Pope, M., Breslin, C. M., Getchell, N., & Liu, T., (2012). Using Constraints to Design Developmentally Appropriate Movement Activities for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 83, 2.