How to treat clumsiness, poor balance and coordination in kids?
Do you feel like your kid almost trips over their own feet? Are they always coming home with knocks and bruises on their knees and elbows? Do not worry, your kid is not alone. This is a frequent problem that we see across the board in children. It generally can be broken down into three fundamental reasons which will help explain clumsiness, lack of coordination and balance in children. Your child could just struggle with one area or have elements of all three influencing their movement.
Why is this happening?
Reason number 1: Motor planning
This concept involves the brain coordinating the body’s movements between positions. Children facing challenges in motor planning find it hard to initiate movements, recognise the necessary steps for multi-step activities, and assess their actions to improve future attempts. While these children may successfully complete a task once or twice, replication proves challenging, leading to frustration. This difficulty is often observed in children aged 4-7 learning advanced mobility skills like skipping, ball sports, bike-riding, and playground activities. Children who struggle with this may attempt to expedite movements, hoping for success through speed and momentum, resulting in clumsiness and unrefined movement.
The best way to address this issue is to slow down movement. Assist the child to identify the different steps required to complete a task. This involves identifying a start position, the sequence of movement required and then reflect on where they went wrong if they were unsuccessful. This process of start position, steps involved and reflection is something that most of us do without conscious effort.
Reason number 2: Strength
The second influencing factor is strength. Often children who are weak and low tone end up moving in a very uncoordinated, clumsy way. This is because their muscles do not have sufficient strength to complete the movement, so they compensate by using their big muscles for all movement. This is typically seen in children who are tall, lean, with not a lot of muscle mass. They often fatigue quickly as they must work harder to complete movement. For these children, they cannot do the movement in its proper form. However, they want to keep up with their peers so they figure a way to contort their body to achieve the skill in an inefficient, clunky manner.
The best way to address this issue is to build strength. It is important that the child learns how to move in a healthy movement pattern and to train out any compensatory strategies that are being used to make up for weakness. This involves a lot of repetition, targeted strength work and focus on good movement patterns. Our team, can help to identify what compensatory strategies are being used and how to teach good movement patterns.
Reason number 3: Body Alignment
The final influencing factor is body alignment. The body has been wonderfully created to have good alignment of shoulders over hips over knees over ankles. This enables the body to stay upright against gravity. Without good alignment, gravity placing more stress on the joints making it more difficult to move. This can also place more strain on joints that are in suboptimal positions and on muscles that are trying to control a joint to move in a certain way. This is more common in children who are hypermobile.
The best way to address this issue is to restore the body back to a good alignment to begin with. This may be through the use of orthotics, bracing or use of tape. In extreme cases, surgical intervention can fix alignment. This may also be accomplished by strength being built in the stabilising muscles around a joint, assisting the muscles to have the strength to hold the joint in optimal alignment during movement. Some children may need a combination of both orthotics and targeted strengthening to assist them to refine their movement.
So… what do I do?
Balance and coordination are a multi-faceted skill that involves multiple systems and therefore it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact issue that your child is facing. Book in with our experienced paediatric team today to find out why they are having difficulty and provide some targeted advice to assist them to move in a more efficient, refined pattern.