NEW online training courses from DSE. On-demand expert training for educators and parents. Find out more...


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.


Now available in print and ebook editions

Down Syndrome Issues and Information books are now available as either printed books or PDF ebooks.

Copies can be purchased from DSE stores in the US and in the UK:

New from DSE: See and Learn Speech

See and Learn Speech is designed to help parents and educators support children with Down syndrome to develop clearer speech.

See and Learn Speech offers a structured approach to support speech development, working in small steps towards clearer speech production.

Now available as teaching kits and apps.

Find out more...