Motor development for individuals with Down syndrome – An overview

Ben Sacks and Sue Buckley

The term motor development covers a wide range of important human skills, from sitting, walking and running, to independent drinking, eating and dressing, to writing, drawing and using a keyboard, to sports and dance, and to work related skills such as operating machinery or packing. Most of us take our motor skills for granted, as most are performed easily and effectively without the need for conscious control, but, in fact, all movements require fast and complex control by the central nervous system, and motor control is still not fully understood by researchers in this field. In this overview, research into the development and control of movements in typically developing individuals is discussed, and compared with the research into the motor development of individuals with Down syndrome, in order to identify evidence-based principles on which to base effective interventions. The research studies indicate that the pattern of motor skill development for individuals with Down syndrome is largely one of delay rather than difference, though attention needs to be given to developing strength and balance, and that they learn most effectively visually, from imitating a model, rather than from verbal instruction. The most effective way in which to improve motor skills for any individual is with practice, and studies have shown that individuals with Down syndrome need more practice than typically developing individuals to improve their performance. Most teenagers and adults can continue to develop their motor skills and many will achieve high levels of skill if given the opportunity.

Sacks B, Buckley SJ. Motor development for individuals with Down syndrome – An overview. Down Syndrome Issues and Information. 2003.


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