Sep 092011

One of the most frustrating, handicapping things about proprioceptive dysfunction is getting stuck with the inability to motor plan properly. Almost every action we do is seamlessly thought out by the brain and performed by the body. A child who has poor motor planning skills because of proprioceptive dysfunction has an extra hard time doing simple things that should be easy and that look easy when everyone else does it.

For example, a child who must sit as his desk in school and complete a worksheet the teacher has just passed out. First he must figure out a good sitting position for writing. Next he picks up his pencil and adjusts it in his hand again and again until he finds it both comfortable and functional. Then he must position the worksheet paper at a good angle. Finally he can begin writing, and he sees that the rest of the class has finished a good portion of the worksheet already. Noticing that it looks easy for everyone else starts to build anxiety and nervousness, and eventually frustration when it happens again and again.

Or, a child who is playing sports and must judge the distance of the ball, run at full speed, and hit/kick the ball without knowing how much strength to put in.

Or drinking at a water fountain- pushing the button with the right force while standing in the proper position. How many times have I seen kids getting splashed in the face until they get the hang of both skills and then learn to do them simultaneously?

To get even simpler, how about a child who is sitting at the table eating and decides he’s ready to pick up his cup and drink from it. First he needs to move his hand and position his fingers properly around the cup. He needs to figure out how slowly or quickly to lift the cup, depending on its heaviness, as well as how loosely or tightly he needs to be gripping it. It isn’t hard to imagine what would happen if the child has trouble with any of these details. Most children don’t need to worry about spilling milk or juice all the time. For the child who does, unfortunately, anxiety and frustration becomes part of his lifestyle.

My son’s inability to motor plan is obvious, unfortunately. When he was younger it was much harder for him to perform simple tasks like brushing his teeth or getting dressed in the morning. Over the years, practice has made perfect, I guess, and it’s no longer an issue, but he does struggle with more complex tasks.

My son had thought of two ways to help him concentrate on tasks, and I was pretty impressed with his ideas! Not to mention they were adorable.

First, he decided to pretend to be his favorite gadget: a GPS! Just like the GPS would tell us where to turn and which way to go on our road trips, he would put on a GPS voice and announce to himself: “Turn right. Go into the bathroom.” And then: “Turn around, go to the sink.” And “Get toothbrush, turn on the water.” He would self-talk right through each step of the task he was supposed to accomplish. It was incredible to watch his overstimulation/hyperactivity disappear and the concentration he had in its place. It worked like a charm, when he was willing to use it.

His second idea came from watching educational YouTube clips of Crawford the Cat who teaches children how to perform different basic tasks such as washing hands with soap, brushing teeth, etc, such as these:

My son loved pretending to be Crawford the Cat, and just like the GPS idea, he would self-talk through his chores. We survived many mornings and bedtime routines by playing GPS or Crawford! What is most incredible to me though is that he figured out for himself a method to keep himself concentrating on the task before him.

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