Does Your Child Seem Clumsy?

This could be a sign of a motor coordination disorder.

Coordination refers to whether a child can move their arms and legs together to work in a coordinated, effective way. Whether playing games, taking part in sport or doing schoolwork, coordination skills are important for your child. Motor coordination is the ability to use multiple body parts for a particular action. For example, dribbling a basketball means using your arm and hand to bounce the ball while your feet and legs move you around the court.

How to Improve Coordination and Motor Skills?

Occupational and physical therapy can help the child learn the more complex motor skills by breaking down the difficult skill into smaller components and practicing until mastery is achieved. Being able to master a new skill helps to reduce frustration and produce a sense of accomplishment in the child. 

Some activities may include:

Strengthening the shoulder muscles:

  • Wheel-barrow walking
  • Pull-ups
  • Push-ups

Strengthening the core (trunk) muscles:

  • Sit-ups
  • Bridging

Developing hand-eye coordination and visual tracking skills:

  • Throwing and catching a ball
  • Playing tennis, table-tennis, baseball, football

Developing bilateral (right-left) coordination:

  • Obstacles courses
  • Cycling, swimming, throwing and catching a ball, climbing up a ladder

Developing hand skills:

  • Playing jacks
  • Squishing and rolling play dough with both hands

Developing balance:

  • Tandem walk
  • Stand on one leg, eyes open or eyes closed
  • Walk backwards
  • Hop on one leg

If you are concerned about any of your child's motor skills, talk to your pediatrician about a referral for occupational therapy. It can make a huge difference in your child's abilities and confidence.

How can motor coordination affect my child?

Children with motor coordination difficulties are frequently described as "clumsy" or "awkward" by their parents and teachers. These children may have difficulty mastering simple motor activities, such as walking up stairs, cutting a piece of paper, typing on a keyboard and are unable to easily perform many age-appropriate academic and self-care tasks. Some children may experience difficulties in a variety of areas while others may have problems only with specific activities.  Motor coordination difficulties may impact academic progress as well as social and emotional development.

Children may be diagnosed with developmental coordination disorder (DCD) which  is commonly associated with other developmental conditions, including attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), learning disabilities (LD), speech-language delays and emotional and behavioral problems.

Do children outgrow their motor difficulties?

Research tells us that motor difficulties persist throughout adolescence into adulthood. Children can and do learn to perform certain motor tasks well, however, they have difficulty when faced with new, age-appropriate ones and are at risk for secondary difficulties that result from their motor challenges. Treatment may help to reduce the emotional, physical and social consequences that are often associated with this disorder.