During the first 5 years of life, body structure growth is rapid and even amazing. Boys will grow from approximately 20 inches to 34 inches and from 7.5 lbs to 28 lbs during the first 2 years of their life. Following that, on average, they gain about 2 inches and between 4 and 6 lbs. annually until they reach puberty. Girls grow at a slower rate but on the same curve.
Muscle and bone growth depend on the growth curve
of weight. Bones are formed in the fetus with soft cartilage. They begin to harden from the midportion of bone,and continue hardening at the end of long bones after birth. Muscle weight also increases at a rapid pace during the early years. This growth is caused by the increase in the breadth and length of the muscle fiber.
The nervous system, including the spinal cord, brain, and nerves, control all the body’s movement. Early reflexes are controlled by the midbrain. Then the cerebral cortex controls voluntary motor movements and its purpose. The cerebellum controls and coordinates balance, timing, and involuntary motor acts (e.g. breathing and heartbeat).
Genes are the primary determiners of potential growth although there are other factors as well, such as absence of severe illness in utero and early in life, mother’s diet and positive environmental facts. They all will support appropriate development and growth.
All motor skill development are reflexes that begin development in the uterus. Many reflexes, such as the startle reflex and the rooting reflex are present at birth. As the infant matures, these reflexes are inhibited, and movements become differentiated so that voluntary responses are performed.
There is a second set of gross motor skills
to develop which includes the upright-positioning skills. This leads the person to develop a vertical position, which becomes necessary for locomotion. Exploration and learning as well as socialization, are dependent on the child’s ability to move about the environment. The infant learns to lift the head, which allows him to turn from front to back. Then as trunk control increases, the child is able to sit up. From there a series of movements develop whereby the child can begin turning his legs outward at the hips, then bending the legs at the knees and finally placing hands on the floor, allowing for crawling to begin.
After the crawling stage between 9 and 12 months, a child learns to pull up with objects or with the help of adults and is able to stand. Crawling doesn’t allow for manipulating objects so this is an important milestone. After the walking stage other forms of locomotion, such as climbing, running and jumping occur within 2 to 2 ½ years.
When infants are born they have a grasp reflex. They close their hands around anything placed there even though they don’t yet know how to release the grasp. At a later stage manipulating, reaching, grasping and releasing skills appear. Known as ”prehensile skills” an infant spends time discovering his hands and just watching them move. This latter stage is very important as it allows the child to learn eye-hand coordination and early learning.
The sequence of development comes in several stages. Thus, infants gain control of their shoulders before they gain control of their arms. They can reach before they can grasp. After controlling arm movement, the child proceeds to use his hands and finally, fingers.
There is a sequence as well for the hand finger motions. When the child grasps at first it is achieved by having the fist in a downward position. To learn to move it to an upward position is quite a task. We often take for granted the complicated task of eating skills. The child has a pronated (downward) position with his fist. Then he has to turn the wrist and place the food into his mouth. Usually this is accomplished by the time the child has reached 13 months. Later there is the ”pincer grasp”, by which an object is held between the index finger and thumb. This pincer grasp is needed in order to hold writing implements because that requires what is called ”the tripod grasp”, which is the pincer along with the balance and support provided by the middle finger. Some children will have difficulty achieving the higher level grasps. Because of that fine motor skills
are taught in preschool, which helps to increase fine motor strength, coordination flexibility and smoothness of motion.
When children play, motor activities need to be included because they need these skills and accomplish even more complex ones that they will need later in life. Other aspects of motor development include: increasing flexibility in joints so as to increase range of motion, continued strengthening, reaction time, agility, coordination, balance, and speed. These are all needed to develop a fit and well rounded individual.
If reaching, grasping, releasing and manipulating skills are impaired due to pre or post birth neurological problems or disease then devices such as the HANDTUTOR can be incorporated into a physical therapy
solution. The HANDTUTOR can also assist in developing fine motor skills impairment. The TUTOR system which also includes the ARMTUTOR, LEGTUTOR and 3DTUTOR, can be used in children from the age of 5 and over. The TUTORs
are gloves or braces that are ergonomically designed and with sensors allow the patient to do intensive computer exercises with dedicated, challenging and enjoyable games. Physical and occupational therapists monitor and record the progress made by the patient and then design a customized program for him. The TUTORs were also designed to increase limb movement for those who had a stroke, Parkinson’s disease, brain or spinal cord injury and other upper and lower limb disabilities or surgeries.
Currently in use in leading rehabilitation hospitals and clinics in the U.S. and Europe, the TUTOR system can also be used in the patient’s home through telerehabilitation. The TUTORs are fully certified by the FDA and CE.
See WWW.MEDITOUCH.CO.IL for further information.