Signs & Symptoms

Coordination

Is your child clumsy?

Some children have trouble running or walking. They may bump into the walls while running down the hall. They may hit their heads when entering a play tunnel. Children with these challenges generally do not enjoy hopscotch or the monkey bars.

Sometimes they accidentally crash into people at school while in circle time. They might have trouble with walking in a single-file line or with other motor activities in which they are in close proximity to peers. They may not understand personal space.

Children who struggle with this skill may be described as ‘bulls in a china shop.’ They may move loudly and clumsily and may fall down frequently. Clumsy children are often getting hurt; bumps, bruises, and even more serious injuries may happen more frequently than in children with better coordination.

Sometimes, you may notice these children behave impulsively, that is, not thinking before acting. It may be that you notice your child simply looks funny or awkward when running at the park. He may appear ‘wobbly’ or ‘floppy.’

You may notice that your child doesn’t seem to understand how far away things are and may run into the screen door or fall off of playground equipment. Within a developmental context, difficulty running smoothly is normal through the toddler years. However, if your child is 4 years old or older, he or she should be able to walk like an adult and be starting to run naturally [2].

What do challenges with Coordination look like?

  • Having challenges running?
  • Moving awkwardly?
  • Running into things or people?
  • Tripping or falling down a lot?
  • Struggling to participate in P.E. or sports for fear of getting hurt?
  • Feeling embarrassed about a lack of athletic ability?
  • Unable to use both sides of their body effectively during a task?
  • Having difficulty stringing beads, tying shoes or buttoning?

Why is Coordination happening?

Clinically, ‘clumsiness’ is referred to as a deficit in gross motor skills. The term gross motor refers to large muscle groups such as those used for walking and running. Difficulties with walking swiftly and smoothly may also be referred to as “awkward gait.” This term means that the walking movements are jerky and awkward, rather than fluid, straight and coordinated. A child who struggles with gross motor control has difficulty sending signals from the brain to the limbs in order to execute effective, fluid movement. Some children have trouble running smoothly but eventually grow out of it.

Typical development is as follows: 

  • 36 Months (3 years): Children who are 36 months of age should be able to walk naturally while rotating the upper body and swinging arms at sides [2]. 
  • 48 months (4 years): By 48 months, children should be able to walk like an adult and to run smoothly. 
  • 66 months (5.5 years): By the age of 66 months, children should have a mature running pattern and may enjoy racing peers to show off their skills. 

If your child is still awkward in his or her movements through kindergarten or first grade, you may have a cause for concern. A physical therapist may be able to work with your child on these skills.

How can I manage Coordination at home?

Physical therapy and Occupational therapy may be available to your child in school or privately through insurance.

Physical therapy addresses gross motor movements, which are big movements like walking and running.

Occupational therapy addresses fine motor coordination and control as well as sensory differences and needs. Sensory differences refer to being less or more sensitive to sensory stimuli like light, sound, touch, taste, smell, and movement.

Encourage activities such as: martial arts, yoga, dance, swim, or gymnastics. These sports might best be initiated at a beginner level with lots of individual support. Just as you can strengthen your core doing exercise, your child can too. He or she may not be a stellar athlete but can build more confidence and strength.

Keep in mind that some children will not care as much about athletics, and this preference is okay. It may be that your child simply dislikes P.E. class and prefers to stay away from baseball. If he or she is finding a sense of belonging in academics, chess club, card clubs, or student council, the child may not need to worry about sports as much. In this case, it will be important to ensure that your child is healthy physically and has a good self-esteem.

Other activities to promote your child’s coordination

  • Lacing cards
  • Ball activities (playing catch, throwing a ball up and catching, tossing against a wall and catching, standing in a line with multiple people and passing it over/ under)
  • Obstacle courses
  • Shuffling and passing out cards
  • Placing noodles or beads on a string
  • Playing Twister

How can Clear Child Psychology help with Coordination?

If your child is struggling with this symptom to the point that it is getting in the way of his or her learning, relationships, or happiness, it’s time to seek professional help.

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Our Free Discovery Session is a 20-minute consultation where we can talk one-on-one about the concerns and questions you have about your child.

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We Help Determine Next Steps

Our Initial Consultation allows us to get a deeper understanding of your child’s needs and determine if an assessment is appropriate.

We Build a Customized Plan

Our Assessments allow us to determine your child’s specific strengths and challenges. We can use this information to develop a customized support plan which includes: referrals

We Connect you with the Right Professionals

Once we understand your child’s needs, we will help families get connected to the right specialists. No more guesswork, no more wasted time and resources.

We Provide Ongoing Coaching and Support

Our Coaching Packages allow us to continually support families as they continue their journeys. Parental coaching, life-skills practice, and school advocacy are just a few examples of ways we help.

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