Balance and Coordination: Why Kids get “Lost in the System” Without Mastery of Balance and Coordination
This article provides helpful information and activities for improving balance and coordination in children. 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.
As we educate more parents and teachers about the benefits of balance and coordination activities, it becomes progressively apparent how physical skills support academic learning, behavior, and attention and focus. Successful academic learning depends upon mastery of motor skills, posture control, vision development and hand-eye coordination.
Believe it or not, the balance system in your child’s brain (Cerebellum) is a fundamental piece for higher learning and problem solving. Both balance and bilateral coordination are essential for supporting your child’s vision system for reading, posture for taking notes from the chalkboard, and attention to listen and retain information from the teacher. Children who struggle in these areas often have difficulty with motor skills that come easy to other children like hopping, skipping, catching, riding a bicycle, swimming and tying their shoes.
Many times children who struggle with balance and coordination issues don’t qualify for special programs offered in the education system nor do they fit into any diagnostic category. Because they appear to be mainstream children in the classroom and have above-average intelligence, they often make up for motor issues and postural problems by completing homework that is considered “good enough,” but doesn’t result in achieving their full potential. All of these children are typically very bright and eager to learn, but are held back by motor and postural issues, which creates a disconnect in the brain for higher learning. What’s sad is many times these children get lost in the system and never get the intervention they need for greater cognitive development.
Children that experience developmental delays, chronic ear infections, or a traumatic event at birth are sometimes prone to balance and coordination issues as they get older. Because your child’s balance and hearing have a number of neural pathways in common, learning challenges are often created when a life-event disrupts the connections in the brain used for processing and interpreting information. In addition, your child may also have a retained a primitive reflex, the Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (STNR), that can hinder their postural control and can cause fidgeting, slouching and attention issues in school. You can administer an easy test at home (click here) to see if your child has retained this reflex.
In Attention, Balance, and Coordination, Sally Goddard Blythe says, “When movement efficiency is acquired, degrees of freedom become possible: bilaterally, rhythm, flexibility, motor planning, and motor control. Postural control and balance are crucial for the development of these higher skills.”
Signs of Balance and Coordination Issues
If your child struggles with balance and coordination issues, you may notice the following signs or symptoms:
- Trouble performing age-appropriate tasks
- Difficulty learning new motor skills (hopping, skipping, jumping)
- Delays in developmental milestones (walking, crawling, toe walking, sitting)
- Clumsy and uncoordinated (sports, walking down stairs, bumps into people)
- Trouble with hand-eye coordination activities (tying shoes, fastening buttons, cutting with scissors)
- Child prefers activities that do not require physical activity (video games, watching television, iPad games, reading)
Balance and Coordination Activities
To improve your child’s balance and coordination, here are three simple activities you can do at home to encourage better development of their motor skills. Headphones contain filtered music that directly targets the auditory and balance systems of the brain. Children do not need the headphones to complete the exercises, however, music therapy is recommended for better cognitive development.[youtube_channel resource=0 cache=0 fetch=10 num=1 ratio=3 responsive=1 width=306 display=thumbnail norel=1 nobrand=1 showtitle=none desclen=0 noanno=1 noinfo=1 link_to=none goto_txt=”Visit our YouTube channel” class=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5P4wdZ15mnw]
Sensory steps are wonderful for kids and can be used in many different ways to help sensory integration, balance and coordination. For the purposes of this activity, place the sensory steppers on the ground in a straight line (don’t spread them too far apart). Have your child walk across the row of steppers, one at a time, alternating feet. If your child has difficulty with balance, hold your arm out for them to stabilize themselves before they begin. As they perfect this activity, have them complete it on their own without help. Once they master walking forward, have your child walk backward on the steppers. Complete this activity at least five times, three times a week.
For this activity, you will need a Bosu ball or some type of exercise equipment that requires your child to balance. Have your child stand on top of the Bosu ball and jump five times or as many times as they can. As they become more proficient with this activity, have them jump higher and faster, which requires more balance and control. You may need to stand beside them or behind them to stabilize their body if they feel like they will fall.
EZ Stepper Walks
EZ Stepper walks are by far one of the most favorite balance and coordination activities our students like to do at our center. You will need EZ Steppers to get started. Have your child put their feet on the buckets of the EZ Steppers and hold the ropes with their hands (ensure the child pulls the ropes tightly to prevent falling). When your child feels stable, have them begin walking forward using their arms and feet to move the steppers. Make sure they walk across a flat surface that is not slippery. As they become proficient at this activity, have them walk backward with the steppers or take larger steps forward. You may need to stabilize them at first, but eventually you will want them to complete this activity on their own.
Exercises for Balance and Coordination
If you have tested your child or student for balance and coordination issues and they display signs of some of the ones listed above then your child will most likely continue to show signs of toe walking, W-sitting, bedwetting, poor balance and coordination, underdeveloped vestibular and proprioceptive systems, and trouble with motor planning. If your child struggles with any number of these issues, it could be an indication that the nervous system is underdeveloped.
To gain access to all balance and coordination exercises we do at our center with our students, join our video membership club now to get started. We now have three new options available:
- Pick and choose which series works best for you for one price.
- Sign-up for our monthly membership to gain access to each new series on a monthly basis.
- Register for our annual membership to gain access to all the videos we release for the whole year.
Depending on what option works best for you, each series is typically only $1 per video. Each video series allows you to track your progress and reach certain goals you set with your child. To join, click here.
Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning disabilities 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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