Gross Motor Skills Delay - 3.5 y.o. - advice? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 16 Old 06-17-2008, 06:50 AM - Thread Starter
 
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My dd is 3.5 years old. She was a late crawler (13 months) and walker (almost 20 months), but I didn't get crazy over it. She was highly verbal early on (it seems that babies initially have verbal or physical strengths, but not both), and my pediatrician wasn't concerned because dd kept "moving in the right direction" along the gross motor skills continuum. She has excellent fine motor skills (doing intricate things with her hands).

Fast forward to 3.5 years, and my daughter is easily a year behind her peers. She has difficulty going up and down stairs; she usually goes either very slowly, holding railings and/or hands, or slides down on her butt. She is reluctant to go on most playground equipment, and she is awkward when she jumps or runs. I believe that a psychological component has developed too, a she has regressed in some areas (i.e., she used to go on playground slides, but now hardly ever). Because she is mentally quite sharp, she absolutely realizes that she is behind her peers ("so and so can jump off the bench, but I can't") and often gets flustered when surrounded by kids who can do more than her. She also has lots of emerging fears, although many of them seem pretty normal for a 3 year old.

We decided to give physical therapy a shot, and have gone a handful of times. It is hard to tell if that is doing anything. Also, as a 3 year old, some days she is eager to do what she is asked, and other days not at all. We have told her that it is an "exercise class" which it essentially is. The novelty is wearing off, though, and she is starting to not want to go. We are sticking with it for the time being. We used to go to a gym class, but she wasn't really doing anything, mostly watching the other kids. She has asked to go again recently, so we're going to do it, but with a slightly younger class. Anything to get her active and comfortable.

I often look back at our AP lifestyle and beat myself over the head about things. I am positive that her delay in crawling/walking is just a part of who she is, but I feel we may have exacerbated it by all the carrying (slings) we did. At the time, I felt I was being in tune with my daughter and meeting her needs by carrying her a lot of the time, but now I'm not sure. It seems to have turned into a lifestyle (although we rarely do it any more, she whines about it a lot, although less and less). Of course, having a new baby brother in the house hasn't helped much!

I don't want or expect her to be a star athlete, but I do want her to enjoy the playground and be able to run around with other kids. The stair climbing thing I think will naturally be resolved as she gets taller (and the stairs are easier), but really - she should be able to run up and down the stairs by now. She favors one leg in each direction up and down (which is normal, I think, for kids to "plateau" at each step and raise the same leg up) but when I ask her to try and do it with the opposite leg she protests and refuses. She doesn't even want to try. Yet, she always "plays" gymnastics and ballet; she at some level aspires to be more physical.

Has anyone been through this too? Is there light at the end of the tunnel? I felt for the longest time that she would eventually just catch up with her peers. But now I think it has entered her psyche and she is limiting herself. I am sure that she can sense my concerns as well. I try, but don't think I am successful in hiding my concerns. She is a pretty darn perceptive kid. And I should add, very few of my friends can empathsize with me and I'm getting worn down by it a bit. With a new baby in tow I find it is hard to get out of the house, since DD needs so much help from me. Friends seem to be judging me as it being my shortcoming or overbearing parenting style. I feel like I am the problem in her undeveloped physical skills. It is becoming a bit obsessive for me, as I am constantly judging her skills against other kids, yet I don't know what to do to improve the situation.

Really feeling alone on this one. Would love to hear other's experiences with the same issue. Thanks!
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#2 of 16 Old 06-17-2008, 10:37 AM
 
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She sounds a lot like me! I am not sure how old I was when I crawled, but I did not walk till 19 months (and I had a 7 month old sister by then, too so my mom got very strong arms ). I also was talking WAY before then. I always have been (and still am) a bit fearful and cautious about trying new things, especially physical ones. My mom put me in a tumbling class at about age 4 with my sister and we took ballet for a year or so when I was about 7. I NEVER liked PE in school as I was always the kid that sucked at everything, but instead focused on academics where I did well. Some things that helped me...watching my sister or a close friend try something first and seeing that they did fine, then I would try it (a slide or whatever), the tumbling class so that I could finally turn a somersault and jump off the huge boulder in our front yard, and having people be VERY patient and willing to work SLOWLY with me, just gently encouraging me. I never did any organized sports (not interested), but eventually (age 7) learned to ride a bike and would go around with my sister and friends a lot in the summer.

So it sounds like you are doing all the right things...gently encouraging her, getting her involved in tumbling class, giving her lots of opportunities for physical activity. Only other thing I would suggest is to encourage a friendship with an active friend, as that worked well for me to help get me to try and keep up with new activities.

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#3 of 16 Old 06-17-2008, 10:50 AM
 
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We have been through this to an extent with my older dd. She didn't crawl until 11 months and didn't walk until 15.5 months. She was speaking in sentences before she was walking and also had very good small motor skills. While I'd say that her gross motor skills were better than what you describe at 3.5, she is very cautious individual and is still working on riding her bike w/out training wheels and she'll be 10 in 3 months.

She isn't a clutz, though. She does well at activities like ballet and scuba diving (her major passion) -- individual sports. She isn't into team sports and gets overwhelmed by all of the people running at her in basketball, for instance. We had an OT look at her when she was 7 and she dx her with sensory overresponsiveness (SID). I do think that a lot of this is just the way she processes her world. She is very intense and sensitive to things as well as being very cautious.

It hasn't caused her serious issues in life as of yet except for her issues with noise distracting her for which she has a 504 plan at school (for a quiet testing environment). Too much sensory input is overwhelming for her. She is a fabulous student, though, and the other kids like her. I guess that I'm saying that it isn't a social stigma and she isn't seen as the odd kid that everyone stares at or makes fun of or anything like that.
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#4 of 16 Old 06-17-2008, 12:04 PM
 
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DD has always been quite hesitant about playgrounds. She also became upset at about 3 when she still couldn't jump. Suddenly she didn't want to take part in any action songs at playgroup which involved jumping.

A couple of things seem to have helped her
Going regularly to the same playgroud. At least once a week we went to the same place. Once she got confident there we are now able to go to other playgrounds (though it still takes quite a while for her to warm up to new ones)

We also bought a little tikes climber at home, I think getting to practice when no one is watching has really helped her test herself. (I keep an eye on her though the kitchen window)

We also played lots of action song CDs and danced along, eventually she learned to jump
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#5 of 16 Old 06-17-2008, 04:14 PM
 
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I would strongly recommend that you have her assessed by an Occupational Therapist. It's entirely possible that your daughter has a mild form of dyspraxia (which means her brain has difficulty planning movements and carrying them out). OTs, sometimes more than PTs, do a lot of work with kids that work not only on physical skills, motor planning and balance.

I would also highly recommend that you read the book "The Out of Sync Child" -- there's a chapter in there on children with dyspraxia (chapter 5 - children who have trouble with proprioceptive sense, or possibly chapter, which talks about vestibular senses).

OT is also a lot of fun- it's a big "gym" with lots of different things to play on - climbing, swinging, jumping, etc. Here's what our OT looks like.

Our son (now 7) had some delays in motor planning, vestibular senses and hypersensitivities to touch and sound, all of which were related to sensory processing disorder. He also had a lot of fears because he couldn't tell where sounds were coming from (vestibular issues), and he wasn't sure what his body was going to do, so physical activities were hard.

OT has made a huge difference. When he was 4, he could not pedal a trike. He recently learned to ride a bike in TWO days!! He's moved from being significantly delayed in some motor skills to being just below average. He's never going to be a star athlete, but at least he can hold his own among the neighbor kids for the most part!

Finally, quit blaming yourself. From what I've read on the subject (which is a lot), AP should HELP rather than hurt. Baby wearing helps a child's vestibular senses because they're upright and they have to make fine adjustments of their body with yours. It also strengthens neck and trunk muscles, which are crucial for proper poster, balance while walking etc. I spent some time kicking myself because I didn't wear ds much. (Because of his tactile issues, he HATED it.)

Moral of the story: Nothing you did made your kid this way. Gym classes, gymnastics, swimming, and possibly OT are great things to try to give her confidence in what her body can do and teach her motor skills.

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#6 of 16 Old 06-17-2008, 07:55 PM
 
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Hi Shell,

My son crawled and walked at an average age, but his gross motor development after that was slow. He was slow to learn to jump (after 3.5 years), and didn't run for quite a long time after learning to walk. Climbing is still an issue for him. For years we took him to an open gymnastics class, parks several times a week, just basically giving him the opportunity to practice if he wanted to.

Then a friend noticed his feet, and we took him to a podiatrist. It turns out he has severe flexible flat feet, with terrible pronation. I noticed his feet turning in, but I had no idea it was a problem. He now has arch supports, and the doctor recommends a subtalar implant surgery when he turns 6. We're not sure we'll do the surgery, we have to do more research.

Anyway, just a vote for looking at foot issues.

-Lora
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#7 of 16 Old 06-17-2008, 10:16 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you all so much! It is a lot to think about. A lot of different angles. The physical therapist we are working with suggested taking her to the excellent pediatric sensory issues group at Johns Hopkins (nearby), but I've been a bit concerned that if I take her to sensory development experts, they are going to find something wrong. I mean, everyone has different sensory issues. I don't want to make more of things than really exists... but then again... these issues are real for us; maybe they will have some terrific insights.

I put the book Out of Sync Child on hold at our library.

Today we went to her old gym class, and she loved it! She was asked to do things beyond her comfort level, and she did them! She is still way below the skill level of the other few kids in her class, but for her they were big steps, and of course, that is all that matters. But now that she knows what to expect, I'm not sure if she will do them again next week. I also know that if I keep my distance, she is more likely to try new things. We will see.

Anyway, please keep the comments coming. They are very encouraging and supportive. Thanks to everyone so much!
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#8 of 16 Old 06-18-2008, 02:33 PM
 
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It sounds like you're doing so many good things for your daughter. I think you've gotten good advice to have her evaluated. And if they do find something, the OT will just give her the skills to handle issues better. I dont' think it has to be a negative.

But I also wanted to add that so much of this just might be her personality-- reserved and cautious. My twins NEVER wanted to walk when they were 3. They were well over 4 before they would walk three blocks to the park, whereas their baby sister could do it all the way and back on her own by 18 months. My boys just didn't like walking! Also, one of them was extremely timid at trying new physical things. We enrolled him (both boys) in gymnastics early and it took nearly a year before he didn't fuss about every gym activity. But we felt it was important for him to know he could try and fail and eventually try and succeed. He's 6 now and the more physically adventurous of my twins. (And he's a better gymnast than his brother.)
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#9 of 16 Old 06-18-2008, 02:59 PM
 
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DD is a lot like you discribe. She crawled at 10 months, walked at 16 months and has been at the far edge of the gross development scale on pretty much everything. One thing we have noticed is her balance is terrible. She has always excelled in fine motor skills and vocabulary type stuff. She is very cautious and afraid of things. We enrolled her in "preschool" gymnastics at the beginning of the year and she has improved by leaps and bounds. Her confidence is so much better, her balance is improved and physically she can do things she was no where near. She can jump off of things and hop on one foot. Things she wasn't able to do AT ALL in September. She still isn't as fast or as strong as the other kids, she asks them to wait a lot when running, but they are pretty good at including her.
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#10 of 16 Old 06-18-2008, 03:08 PM
 
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I think you are on the right track and you are doing the right things. Our child had a somewhat similar situation - delayed gross motor development, cautious, slow to hit milestones - and very bright and verbal. OT and PT did him a world of good. He is a preteen now. He's still not the most coordinated kid on the playground, but he has found physical activities he enjoys and I think without that early therapy that may not have happened.

If she's not enjoying PT my suggestion would be to have a conversation (when she isn't listening) with the PT and let them know more about what is happening. See if they are willing to work with you on making it better for her or see if you can switch to a different therapist. Our son had some negative feelings about OT and I spoke with the therapist and she was so appreciative to get our ideas. She asked what he liked at home and I said he was really imaginative and liked pretend play and stuffed animals. She decided at that point that they could prepare a circus for stuffed animals and she involved him in learning tricks he would demonstrate for the show. Immediately it went from not liking OT to being desperately thrilled about it. We also worked on "tricks" he could work on at home as well. They kept this story line going for a year. There were parades down the hallway of the OT clinic, etc. It worked like a charm.

And, that leads to my other suggestion. Therapy is a very little time of the week. I'd try to get as many suggestions for home therapy as you can. It is that time outside of therapy that will really make the difference. As she gets a bit older activities like swimming, dance, yoga, karate, etc. might be a big help.
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#11 of 16 Old 06-18-2008, 03:16 PM
 
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Just to give another perspective, my DD appeared delayed in gross motor skills at 2.5. We had her evaluated and they said she was delayed, but not quite the 20% needed to get services. We decided to watch and wait; interestingly, her skills really took off in this area when she started daycare. Something about being out on the playground without us (she was cautious and we had been perhaps TOO supportive in letting her be so/expecting her to be so) really helped her. At 4.5, she is still slower on stairs than her peers, still a little weak in the arms, and still nowhere near riding a 2-wheeler, but other than that I think she is pretty average. She can, for instance, climb a not-insignificant climbing wall at our playground, walk a short balance beam, swing well alone, and do monkey bars. More crucially, IMO, she is no longer fearful and her confidence has greatly improved. The funny thing about all this is that we dealt with the "crazy monkey climbing everything" phase at 3.5, not 18 months!

I am absolutely NOT saying you shouldn't consider taking action, but in our case it did seem to resolve somewhat with time. BTW, DD was also extremely verbally precocious and we do believe she has some SPD.

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#12 of 16 Old 06-18-2008, 03:26 PM
 
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Oh and as far as your concerns...

As you said you can't effectively hide it anyway, so I would be honest with her in a developmentally appropriate way. "Kids learn stuff at different rates. Some stuff like talking you've learned really quickly, some stuff like stairs take a bit more work. I can tell you are trying hard and this is one way to make it easier for you." And, since she's noticing differences I would start to talk about them in a positive way - "wow daddy can make the best salad in town" "grandma has a way of making everyone feel comfortable" "Beth is quite a dancer", etc. I would urge you not to feel uncomfortable about noticing in a positive way the interests and abilities of others.

As far as the sling stuff - it just totally has nothing to do with it. I know constantly slinged kids who walked at 10 months. We just aren't all wired the same way. Just like you don't get credit for making her sharp, you don't get blame for making her slow to climb stairs. It just is. It isn't the end of the world, it is just a little thing that you need to devote a little bit of energy to.
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#13 of 16 Old 06-18-2008, 04:21 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Roar View Post
<snip>I know constantly slinged kids who walked at 10 months. We just aren't all wired the same way. <snip>
: DS is worn way more than DD was and he started walking before he was 10 months. You can just see he is a different kid and we parent him less cautiously too.
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#14 of 16 Old 06-18-2008, 06:11 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Can anyone tell me what the difference is between PT and OT? Surprisingly enough, I can't find a clear comparison/definition of the two online anywhere.
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#15 of 16 Old 06-18-2008, 06:38 PM
 
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Shell, you've gotten good advice here. Has PT told you what they think the underlying issue is? Sometimes these things are related to low muscle tone (something I have as does my son; I didn't know it until my son's therapists pointed it out but I had gross motor issues in early elementary school), sometimes also or instead dyspraxia/motor planning, sometimes simply confidence or personality. But given her relatively significant early delays (which I think have nothing to do with being slinged we moms are very good at guilt!) I suspect there is something outside of personality underlying her issues. As a parent I would want to know what that is so I could better help her. Evaluations and such are usually ok...my son has never seemed upset by anything about evaluations; just about than not being able to do what other kids can do. Usually it is just meeting a new person and playing.

PT usually deals with gross motor in the major muscle groups and lower part of the body. OT deals with fine motor and the upper part of the body (hands, face, coordination). However, OT's are more likely to have experience with sensory issues and motor planning/motor apraxia. And for many kids with gross motor delays OT is helpful.

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#16 of 16 Old 06-18-2008, 06:55 PM
 
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My little guy is complete opposite of your DD, he has always had advanced gross and fine motor skills but he's a little behind on speaking. He understands and communicates well but his language is behind children his own age. We're pretty AP so I don't think anything I did caused it (well, except that we're a bilingual home), but I don't think her issues are related to your AP parenting. I don't know if that helps any but wanted to encourage you not to beat yourself up. I hope you can get the right help for her and it's nothing serious.

Awesome SAHM to 5-yr-old son,3-yr-old girl and a baby girl. Blog about my home http://azaleastudio.blogspot.com
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