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5 Year Old Problems with Gross Motor Skills

(15 Posts)
sandomum Mon 26-Sep-11 18:37:19

My son is 5 and I think he has problems with his gross motor skills. He is not able to catch/kick a ball nor can he draw/hold a pencil very well. He seems to be generally very uncoordinated and clumsy. He has just started school and I can notice a real difference in his ability to his class mates. I am worried sick that he is going to be left out at playtime when they all start playing a ball game and I can imagine that any form of sport is going to be really hard for him. He also has issues getting dressed and trying to get him out of the house in the morning requires the patience of a saint. I and my husband have tried playing ball games with him, teaching him to ride a bike, teaching him to hold the pen but he just refuses and shows absolutely no interest. We dont know what to do to help him and wonder if it might be worth starting some sort of therapy for gross motor skill development. Does anyone have any experience of this or any suggestions on what we should do? Do children grow out of this? I would love to hear anyone else's experience as we are really worried. Thanks so much

chickydoo Mon 26-Sep-11 18:56:06

My DD had the same. I noticed that at 3 and 4 her fine motor skills (holding a pen, for coloring in etc) were just a load of scribble, and she could hardly write her name age 5. Her gross motor skills were hopeless, no way she could catch a ball, and she ran like a duck. She was very sociable with adults, and very affectionate, yet akward with her peers. She was unable to grasp the concept of being tidy, and had no idea about organizational skills.
As a mother I knew things were not right. We were refered to a peadiatrician who diagnosed dyspraxia. We then embarked on 5 years of occupational therapy to improve her gross and fine motor skills. (most of which we paid for)
After that length of time I am afraid to say if anything she got worse. Things were bad at school and so we sent her to a small private school. DD begain doing more sport and yoga for co-ordination. Still very very untidy, and clumsy.
Later she was diagnosed with mild aspergers syndrome. BUT now she is older 16 to be exact. Due to the fact she is an adult size now, and her muscles have fully developed, the nerve pathways to her hands have been stabalized. She continues with yoga, as it does seem to help her balance, the good news is that she is due to take 12 GCSE's in June and is expected A grades in all of them!! She is funny, clever, beautiful and I am so proud of her, her young life has been a struggle, but we have got there with patience and understanding.
Your DS maybe totally different, but even in the worst case scenario there is always hope, and I am sue he will be fine. Just keep alert and follow your own gut instinct.

sandomum Mon 26-Sep-11 19:07:41

Thanks so much for the post. I am really pleased that your daughter seems to be doing so well now but I am sure it was a hard time that you all went through.
I really feel that something isnt right with my son and more than anything I am worried that he will be ostrasized at school - at playtime/sports etc and he will suffer because of this. I just wish there was something I could do to help him sad

chickydoo Mon 26-Sep-11 19:10:52

One thing I have found with my DD she has never felt "left out" it never really bothered her, bothered me more.
Good luck

PandaG Mon 26-Sep-11 19:15:09

the description you give of your son did make me wonder about dyspraxia. Why don't you ask his teacher if s/he has any concerns about your DS's development? If they have any concerns it would add weight to you then going to the GP and asking for a referral. If you are concerned please do this anyway.

At the Infant school I work in (am not an infant teacher) playtimes are not always dominated by running and ball games. Children may be reading, playing with MOshi monster cards, taking part in a lot of imaginary play, as well as running about. Any teacher and lunctine assistant worth their salt will be trying to ensure there are play opportunities to suit everyone.

sandomum Mon 26-Sep-11 19:33:18

Thanks so much both of you. We had a quick chat with the teacher and she said that he has problems processing instructions/getting changed but did not mention that he had developmental issues. However it was a quick chat before class when all the other parents were arriving so not at all right place or time. Very relieved to hear about playground - have been imagining him on his own whilst others all play football! I dont know what the guide is for when there is an issue or if I am overreacting to all of this and he is just a typical 5 year old. He can pedal a bike (with stablilisers) and I saw that many people posted that this is something they look at. He can swim (with armbands) and can write his name (messily). He can also write his numbers but has a problem hard to tell. I am not sure if its because i NEVER do anything with him at home as he just wants to play with his toys and not bother with any sport/writing etc. He is very chatty and social but seems to prefer his games to playing with us.

vbus Mon 26-Sep-11 19:53:27

Your description of your son is very similar to mine. He is 5 and started Reception last year. He too struggled with gross and fine motor skills. His brother 3yrs younger could hold a pen/spoon, kick a ball and run better than him so the difference was even more obvious. He seems quite intelligent and I always just thought his physcial activities were also below his peers but his mental abilities seemed above his peers but didn't really know why or how to really help him until he started Reception.

His nursery teachers had identified that his co-ordination was weak and had suggested him for special programme ran by the school and was supported by O/T assessment. 2 mornings a week he would do this special group and they basically did lots of activities to improve the strength in his fingers (turns out he had hypermobility which is why he struggled with his grip). So things like playdough, playing with pegs, connect 4 etc really helped and within months he was able to hold a pen properly at the age of 5 when he previously couldn't do it. They played lots of physical games too to help co-ordination. Throwing and catching huge beach balls, then gradually reducing the size of the ball each week etc. They recommended gym work to strengthen his core muscles, he has been doing this for a few terms and his physical confidence and ability have really improved as a result. He has also been football and swimming to help strengthen his leg muscles, so now his running is better. We will attempt taking off his stabilisers soon off his bike now that his confidence and strength are so much better.

I've since discovered that this was an experimental programme which has ended now, I feel extremely lucky that he particpated as I'm sure he would've continued to fall behind his peers and I would've not known how to help him. Now he is not far off his peers in some of these activities but I still try and do some of these exercises at home. I'm considering getting private O/T to see what they suggest going forward or whether they think he's reached an acceptable level now.

Ask for help at school as the teacher's will be observing him everyday and are in a good position to recommend where to seek help. Don't know when/if this programme will be rolled out to all schools but I've since found out there are motor groups who help kids like this, we're on the waiting list to join. Good luck.

sandomum Mon 26-Sep-11 22:01:37

Thanks vbus. I cant tell you how reassuring I find your comments. I do so hope that we can find a programme as successful as yours. I really dont care how "good" he is at sport/academically I just want him to be happy and to be able to fit in with his peer group. He is a very sensitive boy and I feel that he would really suffer if he felt different/left out and I really want to do whatever is possible to stop that from happening. When you say you are considering a private O/T have you got any tips on where to find one or how to know if they are any good or not? Thanks for all your help.

vbus Tue 27-Sep-11 11:48:02

IKWYM, my DS1 is super sensitive and sports are never going to be his strong point. The 1st term he started at reception he was sad in the playground because he felt he couldn't join in the football with the other boys as said he couldn't run as fast as them sad. Now he enjoys it, he's still not very good at it but he can at least do a few things now which he couldn't do before and for him he's improving so that has boosted his confidence!

I don't know how you find an O/T, my friend has an autistic child and has seen many of them so I was going to ask her, school or GP for recommendation. They are so expensive I only want to get one that has been recommended so I'm not wasting my money. It is a relief to know you're not alone and there are many simple things you can do once you know which areas to work on. That's good your teacher doesn't think theer are any developmental issues. Maybe speak to them again when you have a bit more time and hope they can help you as a starting point. Let me know if you have any more q's.

sandomum Wed 28-Sep-11 13:16:44

Thanks vbus for your reassuring comments again. I just wanted to ask if any of you had ever tried playing ball or any other activity in order to try improve their motor skills? My son just refuses to try with us. I dont know if its because he cant and he is scared of disappointing us/himself or if he just really isnt interested and if that is part of the problem itself. Its quite frustrating as I am sure with practice he could get better (I dont think he has ever been interested in balls) and I dont know if I should really try and "make" him or if I should leave it be. The children had to pick an activity at school yesterday and all the boys picked sport apart from my son who chose cookery. Again not sure if its a lack of interest or if he is just afraid?

vbus Wed 28-Sep-11 14:05:09

Hi Sandomum

Did you ask your son why he wanted to do cookery instead? My son showed v.little interest in physcial activities including playing with balls. His scooter sat in the garage for a year unused!

I think with him his reluctance was mostly to do with lack of interest, he much prefers toys/games/books. I think the other reason why he wasn't bothered because he knew deep down he wasn't very good at it and probably found it frustrating that he couldn't do it, then it was no fun for him. He only told me he felt like this when he started school last year. That's when I decided to put him in for football class so he could get better at this. O/T later confirmed this was good way to improve his gross motor skills and strengthen his legs which was what was holding him back on the running front.

I'd just keep trying to encourage him, and now he's bit older he's more physically confident and playing with his peers has spurred his interest so his more willing to try different physical activities. Once he's decided he wants to try something then he really puts in a lot of effort to try and do it. I think thats the key. He enjoys going to these activities with his friends (football and gym) and is now slowly getting better.

If they're not interested then not much point forcing it at this age, but I'd keep encouraging him to try though and make it lots of fun so they want to keep playing. Maybe try sports with a friend? Lots of praise too, once they get some encouragement it does seem it motiavte them and make them feel good about themselves. Even just going to the playground and getting them to try different things helps their motor skills. Hope you manage to find an activity that your son enjoys!

sandomum Thu 29-Sep-11 14:28:12

Thanks for that. I have just found out about a martial arts course near us for 4-6 year olds to improve GMS so hopefully that might be a start. I am also going to talk to the teacher to see if she can recommend an OT. Today when I dropped him off some of the other boys in his class were calling him a baby and told him to play on his own and wouldnt let him join in with a lego game they were playing. I know boys can be mean and I only worry all the more because he is such a sensitive child. Hopefully things will improve....

wonderinglonely Thu 29-Sep-11 16:05:57

just to say, DD has similar issues and we requested physio and OT via GP and Health Visitor. We have had no trouble being seen regularly. Playground was my biggest worry but she seems to manage well now. Sports day was an issue though.

sandomum Thu 29-Sep-11 19:47:48

Hi Wonderinglonely. Glad your DD is managing well now. What sort of thing do the physio and OT do? and is it working well? Has she made an improvement? Also what do you tell her? I am not sure what to tell my son if we do go down this route as I dont want to give him the impression that we think something is wrong with him?

wonderinglonely Thu 29-Sep-11 20:37:02

DD is also 5. It may just be her, but I don't think at that age children take any interest in what's going on in the lives of others. I ask about some of her friends and she doesn't even know where they live, how many siblings etc!

I'm not sure if she thinks all children go for OT etc and we haven't discussed it as anything other than that she does it to help her grow big/strong etc. She enjoys the sessions esp soft play/'assault' course. She doesn't seem to have any complex about going for therapy at this age (she has low muscle tone and it may be another issue with your child - total lay person here!).

However, DD was first referred to physio as a baby so has been going off and on for as long as she can remember. She was showing no signs of crawling/walking so needed some help to develop core strength. Now she does exercises about 3x per week for a few minutes to strengthen her (she has low muscle tone).

I made the decision to ask for OT about the time she started primary school because I could see how difficult she was finding dressing and anticipated writing, using scissors etc could be tricky. OT helps with strengthening shoulders (to feed into fine motor skills e.g. writing) and gave us exercises inc. kneading, cutting, pegging to help to strengthen hands and with coordination.

Of course, you would need to get professional advice for your own child's needs.

I think she has really improved over the last 6 months - year, though we do have off days if tired etc. We await a further assessment to see if she is still 'developmentally delayed'.

When I see her in the park there's no doubt most of the other children of her age are more physically able, but its not the total nightmare it was a year or so ago. She can now participate. We found if we took her to emptyish play areas she would give it a go, but when other kids were about she would freak out (self conscious at times). But we can now safely go to soft play birthday parties!

She has been teased (slowcoach etc) but we are persistent with the activities and she goes to dancing class (she's not the best but hasn't noticed). It does need a lot of patience though. When she started school she talked about not being able to keep up in the playground and other children knocking her over etc but seems to have come to terms with that this year. Not every child (even the boys) will be physical and she seems to have found some quieter children, at last, to play with.

I would say her handwriting is a bit messy so she uses triangular pencils (OT could maybe advise you). She still needs stabilisers on her bike and goes along slowly on her scooter.

Sorry, long!!

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