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Special educational needs and disabilities (SEND)

Gross motor

Motor skills

Motor Skills are developed in the following ways:

Stability to Mobility – Postural Stability is needed to control function.
  • To be able to reach out from a sitting position, a baby must first be able to maintain the sitting position or when reaching out, they would fall over.
Gross to Fine – Whole body to refined (Skilled function).
  • When a baby is excited about a toy it is being shown the whole body will respond by all parts moving. Later they will be able to turn head and arms towards the toy and later again they will be able to reach out one or both hands to the toy and later again will be able to pick it up / manipulate it.
Head to toe – Cephalo to Caudal
  • Head control – being able to turn to a stimulus when lying down comes first, then sitting up and finally standing and walking.
Inside to out – Proximal to Distal
  • Trunk control, keeping the body still enough to reach out and grasp first in lying then sitting then standing comes before being able to purposefully direct one’s arms, legs, hands, feet. Shoulder and trunk stability is crucial for developing good fine motor and handwriting skills, but we often concentrate on the hands rather than the shoulder girdle, core stability or posture and positioning.
Motor Coordination

To achieve Motor Coordination we need to integrate sensory input and processing:

  • Vision (Sight – including perception, the ability to interpret what we see)
  • Touch (Tactile – level of touch from light to pressure, pain and temperature)
  • Vestibular System (Balance – eye, head & body movement, position & speed)
  • Proprioceptive System (Body Awareness – movement of muscles and joints (Unconscious)
  • Kinaesthesia (Muscle Sense – body position, weight, muscle tension and movement (Conscious)

Children with motor coordination difficulties may experience problems in the following areas:

  • Gross Motor Skills and Balance
  • Fine Motor Skills and Handwriting / Recording
  • Vision including Perception / Spatial Awareness
  • Memory, Concentration, and Organisational Skills;
  • Social Skills

Dyspraxia and Cerebral Palsy are the most recognisable medical conditions to cause motor coordination difficulties. There are other associated diagnoses e.g. Autistic Spectrum Disorder, Down’s Syndrome, Hypertonia, Lax Ligaments etc.
Many young children will display difficulties with coordination and benefit from additional activities and strategies, but most grow out of it as they mature. The child with Dyspraxia or Cerebral Palsy may learn to manage their difficulties better, but will not ‘grow out of it’.

Gross motor skills activities

  • Stick in the mud. When a child is caught, the child must stand with their legs apart until another child crawl through his / her legs.
  • Donkey Tag. Each child has a band (tail) tucked into the waistband of their trousers / skirt / shorts. The catchers have to collect as many bands as possible in a given time.
  • Rolling on mat keeping in a straight line, first with hand by sides then hands above head.
  • Dribble ball / move in and out of cones.
  • Musical statues or bumps.
  • Move around the room and go to one side when a word is called – e.g. port / starboard.
  • Move around and make a shape with body e.g. mouse, tree, mushroom aeroplane.


  • Stand with 1 foot on box or a ball for a timed activity then progress to playing games.
  • Play activities – e.g. bowling / target practice, when kneeling or half kneeling.
  • Trampoline, Scooter, Balance boards.
  • Use bouncy castle type equipment.
  • Walk on stepping stones / uneven ground or a low wall etc.
  • Walk along wide line – then get narrower, next use a bench – right way then upturned.
  • Rope-bridge in adventure playgrounds.
  • Use the ‘rope planks’ where 2 / 3 children hold the rope and step on the plank in unison.

Shoulder Stability

  • Make 4 / 3 and 2 point balances – e.g. both hands and feet, then raise one hand or foot, then a hand and a foot.
  • Walking with hands and feet on the ground like a: bear / crab etc then progress to waving / shaking hands with partner or kicking / dribbling a ball.
  • Wheelbarrow with a partner – keep head facing front and pelvis straight
  • Bunny hops kicking feet out behind.
  • Twirl a skipping rope.
  • Stretch out arms, make circles in the air.
  • Hold bat at arms-length and make circles in the air.
  • Press ups with knees on the floor.
  • Climb up wall bars; Pull along a bench.
  • Big arm movements e.g. painting with water on a wall, with paint on wallpaper with thick chalk on a wall etc.
  • Pushing objects e.g. trolley, pram, small wheelbarrow etc. Light at first, then add weight.
  • Tug of war.
  • Throwing at a high / target far away.

Tummy Strength

  • Sit – ups; Rock backwards and forward in a tucked position.
  • Rock sideways in a tucked position.
  • Lying on back on a mat, curl into a ball and try not to fall over.
  • Be part of a story acting out an animal which curls up e.g. hedgehog, cat, snake, wood louse. Curl up tight don’t let anyone unfold you.
  • Lie on an exercise ball on your back and lift your head up to look around, read something, or watch something.