Cerebellum: Signs of Motor Planning Delays if Your Child has an Underdeveloped Cerebellum
This article contains information regarding developmental delays for children with underdeveloped cerebellum brain functions. Affiliate links are included for your convenience. Integrated Learning Strategies (ILS) is a learning and academic center. As a reminder, ILS is not a health care provider and none of our materials or services provide a diagnosis or treatment of a specific condition or learning challenge you may see in your child or student. If you seek a diagnosis or treatment for your child or student, please contact a trained professional who can provide an evaluation of the child.
One of the struggles with learning delays and difficulties is that brains are so complex. There are a multitude of parts and they all have to work properly and then communicate properly with one another after that. There are a lot of places for things to go wrong. We hear a lot about the different parts of the brain. There’s the right hemisphere for creativity, the left hemisphere for logic, maybe you’ve even heard a little about the frontal lobes for our higher levels of thinking (it’s what separates us from the animals, or something like that, right?).
We also know that memory is important for learning. What good does it do us to learn if we don’t store that information somewhere? But what if I said that a couch potato kid with poor handwriting who won’t pick up a book to save his life has an underdeveloped cerebellum? I have to admit, I was surprised. The cerebellum is most commonly understood to be responsible for motor functions. But as we are quickly learning, movement and learning go hand in hand.
What is the Cerebellum?
The cerebellum is the bulbous little thing on the backside of the brain near the bottom. It sits right on top of the brain stem. It plays a large role in movement and muscle memory. This portion of the brain is at work when you walk without paying conscious attention to your steps or when you type on the keyboard without looking. It coordinates motor movement (voluntary movement). To do that, it receives information from the vestibular system (see our article here) and other sensory input systems to fine tune movements and timing. But the more neurologists research, the more they discover that its function is much more complex than just movement. The cerebellum also plays a role in language, working memory (information that you’re currently working with and trying to convert to long term), attention, visual tracking and so much more.
The Cerebellum and Learning
With the functions the cerebellum possesses, it’s not hard to figure out what role it plays in learning. Attention is vital to every form of learning. If your attention is scattered, the information isn’t going in. Visual tracking is necessary for reading, keeping focus on the teacher as they walk around the room and even following the lines of a math problem. Language skills are at the heart of learning. They are how we are taught. When communication suffers, so does understanding. This can also cause issues with reading and writing as well. Working memory pretty much is learning itself.
Without working memory, it’s impossible to take in and hold on to information in order to give your mind time to process it. Then there is the movement factor. Certain movements need to be automatic functions. If they aren’t on autopilot, it clutters up other parts of the brain with trying to deliberately make those movements, which also makes those movements clumsy and awkward.
What Cerebellur Dysfunction Looks Like
Clumsy and awkward is a good place to start. This is why our couch potato in the beginning became a couch potato. Movements, both gross motor and fine motor, are a challenge for these kids. So instead of trying to work through and make neat handwriting, or bumbling around the room and tripping over everything, they resort to lying on the couch and watching TV. This doesn’t require a lot of muscle memory or effort on their body’s part.
The dysfunction of the cerebellum many times goes hand-in-hand with vestibular dysfunction. According to A. Jean Ayres PH.D, in Sensory Integration and the Child, children with this sort of dysfunction struggle with focusing the eyes, hand-eye-coordination, gross motor activities (throwing, catching, kicking), depth perception, gripping pens or pencils, fine motor activities (handwriting, shoe tying, etc.). You may also see slow and awkward reading, disorganized papers to the point of illegibility, unfocused attention and possibly even sensory processing symptoms because of its role in bringing in and responding to sensory input.
The cerebellum is an impressive organ. It’s the computer in the background running all the programs and processing much of the information that guides your decisions that you’re not even aware is going on. It does all that and it’s only a small chunk of tissue and cells on the backside of your brain.
Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning challenges achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs
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