Improve Motor Skills: One Step, and Success, at a Time

I know that many of us already have an advanced and in-depth understanding of motor skills and how delayed skills can negatively impact everyday life. When I consider the future independence my children will hopefully have, I begin to think of the many skills we still have to work on.

Delayed motor skills are an exceptional challenge, because it takes a long time and a lot of work to see results. To avoid this being a challenge, we simply must change the way we view results. Instead of having a single goal of ‘fixing’ a certain deficit, which can seem daunting, we need to have smaller, more achievable goals, which will keep us motivated to continue on.

My son Ian, who has autism, also has severely delayed motor skills. I desperately seek to eliminate these fine and gross motor delays (occupational therapy goals), but without strength, muscle tone, and alike (physical therapy goals) they are difficult to overcome. I was admittedly frustrated as this presents so many challenges for him and we’ve been working on ‘fine and gross motor skills’ for more then ten years. When I kept my focus on his overall abilities, I was frustrated. When I changed my focus, and kept the big goal in mind, I started to feel hopeful.

Ian has a terrible time opening things. It doesn’t matter if you can use a tool, such as a can-opener, he simply struggles. These motor issues transcend to the self help arena, by way of his inability to completely dress himself.

So that he could be completely independent when getting dressed, I bought every color and style jogging pant available to mankind (elastic waist is necessary for us). I hate his wardrobe! I’d give anything for him to own and wear a pair of jeans… and someday he will put them on without any help. Until then, I favor independence over style.

I also choose to keep track of progress in a way that I keep seeing progress – no matter how small. Last night he wanted some juice and instead of giving up after one try, I encouraged him to keep trying and he did- about ten times. When I went to open the juice, I couldn’t do it! So, needless to say, I felt really bad but it was good practice nonetheless.

That is progress.

No, he didn’t open the juice or button his pants, but he squeezed the top tighter, did not become immediately frustrated (like his mother often does), and hopefully the next time he’ll be completely successful, which is an absolute necessity, which is why I also build in guaranteed successes.

This morning when he was eating breakfast, I loosened the cap on the juice, so when he twisted once, it came off. He was ecstatic and so was I. Now he is motivated to keep trying and working hard too. After all, he is the one doing all the work. I’m only guiding the process and setting the stage, so it’s important that he stay motivated. I don’t know about you, but the least motivating factor in the world is failure, while few things are more motivating then success (except maybe a trip to Hawaii!).

I’ve chosen to talk about motor skills because they are such a bee in my bonnet. What’s buzzing around in your mind may be completely different, as all our children have individual needs. No matter what skills you’re working on, keeping in mind a few things will definitely make for a better experience.

1.Keep your ‘big-picture’ goal in mind, but make small, achievable goals the focus.
2.Progress is progress; one additional second, one more try, one more time.
3.Build in success; alter the situation so your child is successful – but still has to put in some effortSmile

If you have any thoughts, ideas or suggestions to add or subtract from mine, simply post them below.