Children develop and improve their gross motor skills significantly during their early school years, between three and ten years of age. A lot of gross motor development occurs at school while playing at recess or doing activities in gym class. School offers the opportunity to recognize if a child needs extra assistance from a physical therapist in expanding or improving their gross motor skills.
Here are some tips for teachers that will help determine if a child would benefit from physical therapy:
- The child prefers to sit and play instead of run or participate in gross motor activities during recess or gym class.
- The child has difficulty jumping, skipping, or galloping when compared to their peers.
- The child has an atypical gait pattern (for example, they walk on their toes or they are “knock-kneed”)
- The child prefers to w-sit (with their knees bent, feet by their bottom, and bottom on the floor) instead of crossed-legged on the floor.
- The child frequently trips, falls, or bumps into objects.
- When walking up and down the stairs, the child does not alternate their feet, instead placing both feet on each step.
- The child is unable to kick a soccer ball.
- The child is unable to catch or throw a playground ball.
- The child runs significantly slower than his peers or has difficulty running for more than one minute.
- The child complains of pain or tightness in their ankles, knees, hips, or back.
If you see any of these characteristics in children at school, they may benefit from a physical therapy evaluation. Without fully developed gross motor skills, a child is going to have difficulties keeping up with their peers during recess or gym class. It will also affect their ability to participate in gross motor games and sports. Also, it is important to note that many children will exhibit the above behaviors and may or may not require physical therapy (PT) intervention therefore it is important to consult with a PT first.