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Understanding Your Child’s Trouble With Movement and Coordination

By Andrew M.I. Lee, JD

At a Glance

  • It’s not uncommon for kids to struggle with movement and coordination.

  • Movement difficulties can show up in different ways.

  • Some kids need more time and practice to catch up, while others may need extra help.

Physical activities like drawing, getting dressed, and kicking a ball come naturally to many kids. But not all. If your child is having trouble with movement and coordination, you might be wondering what’s going on.

Sometimes kids just take longer to develop movement skills—or motor skills—and need more time to catch up. But in some cases, kids need extra help and support to improve.

Learn about what can cause trouble with movement and what can help.

Movement Difficulties You Might Be Seeing

The first things you notice might not be your child struggling with specific movements. Instead, you might see a behavior that you wonder about, but that you haven’t relate to movement difficulties.

Maybe your child avoids doing art projects, gets angry trying to do a puzzle, or walks away when you try to play catch. Or it might seem like your child isn’t paying attention to the rules of a game or doesn’t understand directions like “keep your eye on the ball.”

Sometimes it’s clearer, though. Your child may struggle to put a puzzle piece in place, even though it’s the right piece. Or your child might fumble with scissors.

These difficulties can take different forms. It all depends on what skills are involved.

  • Fine motor skills are the ability to make movements using the small muscles in our hands and wrists. Trouble in this area can make it hard to do things like write, type, and use zippers.

  • Gross motor skills are abilities that allow people to do things that involve using the large muscles in the torso, arms, and legs to complete whole-body movements. Trouble in this area can make it hard to run, jump, throw, and catch.

  • Motor planning is a skill that allows us to remember and perform steps to make a movement happen. Trouble in this area can make it hard to do multi-step physical tasks, like making a sandwich or washing hands.

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Here are some common things kids might struggle with:

  • Balance

  • Riding a bike

  • Holding a pencil

  • Handwriting

  • Using utensils and cutting food

Kids might also seem clumsy. They may move awkwardly and break or bump into things.

What Can Cause Trouble With Movement

When kids have trouble holding a pencil, riding a bike, or doing other movements, it doesn’t mean they’re lazy. It also doesn’t mean they’re not paying attention when you explain how to do something.

So why do some kids struggle with movement and coordination? Sometimes there’s no underlying reason. Kids develop these skills at different rates, and some just take a bit longer than others. They need more practice and opportunity to develop skills.

But kids are expected to have certain movement skills at certain ages. When they lag far behind, the differences become clearer.

A number of challenges can impact movement and coordination. A common cause of motor difficulties is a condition called developmental coordination disorder (DCD), which some people call dyspraxia.

In all of these cases, there are ways to work on challenges so your child can improve and adapt movement skills. Learn more about what to do if you’re concerned about your child’s motor skills.

How to Help Kids With Movement Difficulties

No matter what’s causing your child’s trouble, there are ways to help. An important step is to take notes on what you’re seeing. If there’s a pattern that goes on for a while, you may want to talk to your child’s pediatrician or teacher. They can be great sources of information and advice.

Ask the teacher if your child struggles with motor skills in class, or shows any behavior that might be related. You can also request a free school evaluation to learn more about your child’s challenges and strengths—and supports that could help.

Even if you’re not sure what’s going on with your child, you can still work on building motor skills at home. Explore:

Be sure to keep an eye on your child’s confidence as you work through challenges. Kids who have trouble with motor skills might feel sad or embarrassed that they struggle to do things that come easily to other kids. Praise your child’s progress, and remind your child of strengths to be proud of. Follow these steps for identifying strengths.

Hear from a mom whose daughter struggles to tie shoes and fasten buttons, but can play Bach on the piano. And read a candid story from a dad whose son has motor skills difficulties.

Key Takeaways

  • Trouble with motor skills can make it hard for kids to use scissors, ride a bike, write, and do other tasks.

  • It doesn’t mean that kids are lazy or not paying attention.

  • Take notes on what you’re seeing and share it with your child’s doctor or teacher.

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Share Understanding Your Child’s Trouble With Movement and Coordination

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Email
  • Text Message
  • Coming soonGoogle Classroom