As a physical therapist that works with children, I educate my patient’s family and caregivers on the importance of each and every motor milestone relevant to the child’s age. Often, each milestone assists in the development of the following milestone.1 For example, before a child can crawl on hands and knees, they often develop the skill of moving forward in an army crawl position.
Physical therapists use a variety of different objective tests and measures to help them decide if the patient is developing his/her motor skills appropriately. If a patient is not developing these motor skills as expected on these tests, the child may have developmental delay.2 Developmental delay is an umbrella term used to describe behavior of children who are not moving, talking or playing as expected compared to other children their age.2
Some of the developmental motor milestones that are tested for in infants by a physical therapist are listed below (in no particular order):
This is typically where a physical therapist will start the evaluation if the child is under six months. If the therapist finds different areas of limitation, the treatment sessions will be focused on facilitating the child’s development of those motor milestones through practice and assistance.
Physical therapists can also work with school aged children that may have developmental delays. Some of the developmental motor milestones that are tested for in this group include: (in no particular order):
The Importance of Motor Development
Early motor development is important for a variety of reasons. In fact, it has been found that children with higher proficiency in certain later childhood tasks/skills such as kicking, catching, throwing, hopping and galloping were associated with greater physical activity later in life.1 It makes sense that if we are good at moving around our environment, we may be more inclined to do just that.
If deemed necessary by a pediatrician, physical therapists can help screen for and prevent issues with motor development. If you are concerned with your child’s motor development, it is important to consult your pediatrician to discuss next steps.
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1 Barnett LM, Van Beurden E, Morgan PJ, Brooks LO, Beard JR. Childhood motor skill proficiency as a predictor of adolescent physical activity. J Adolesc Health. 2009;44(3):252–9.
2 Regina Harbourne, PT, PhD, PCS, and Sandra Willett, PT, PCS. “Physical Therapist Guide to Developmental Delay.” MoveForwardPT.com American Physical Therapy Association. Access Date: 6/5/17 <http://www.moveforwardpt.com/symptomsconditionsdetail.aspx?cid=0cb9916b-6b09-44ab-8708-cfc52eb351f5>.
(Motor milestones based on my experiences with various objective measures such as the PDMS-2, AIMS, and BOT-2)