What are motor skills?

‘Motor skills’ describes our ability to control and coordinate movements. This can include fine motor control (e.g., small movements of the fingers and hands) and gross motor control (e.g., large and coordinated movements of the trunk, arms, and legs).

Some neurological and developmental disorders can make learning and mastering new motor skills more challenging. For example, kids with cerebral palsy and acquired brain injury (e.g. following a stroke) might find it challenging to control and coordinate both fine and gross motor skills. Kids with autism spectrum disorder can be clumsy and could find it challenging to coordinate complex movements.

What might be some challenges in the dance class?

  • Kids with motor concerns may appear to be clumsy and uncoordinated.
  • They may find it challenging to coordinate movements together.
  • It might take longer to learn new movement skills.

Quick Tips

Think about the way you communicate and teach new skills

  • Slow things down: Speak slowly. Demonstrate the dance movement at a slow pace. Allow more time for kids to learn.
  • Repeat and simplify instructions: Some kids might need instructions to be made simpler and to be repeated multiple times. You may need to limit the amount of information given at once, so that only one step is explained at a time.
  • Use extra repetitions when learning skills: Some kids might need extra practice for skills. Build slowly from single steps to short dance phrases. Allow them to do more repetitions than other kids to learn the movement if needed.
  • Use visual instructions: Some kids might need visual instructions to learn a skill. Consider using a flip chart to show the visual instructions when teaching.
  • Ask the student: Talk to the student about ways to adapt a step or part of a routine to suit their movement range.
  • Use dance stories: A dance story might be needed to encourage a child to participate in dance class.
  • Use mentors who have disabilities: Use examples of other dancers who might use a wheelchair or have motor challenges that children can relate to and learn from.
  • Encourage participation with praise and positive feedback: Be supportive of each child’s effort. Support their participation with praise and positive feedback.

Think about the activity

  • Change the activity, not the child: If a child is struggling with a dance movement don’t attribute the problem to the child, instead attribute it to the strategy. E.g. ‘You seem to have difficulty doing this movement. Let’s try it a different way just using our arms.”
  • Modify and adapt dance movements: If a child finds coordination difficult, focus the action on one body part at a time. For example, teach a movement using just the legs or just the arms.
  •  Select appropriate music: Use music to engage attention and interest. Allowing students to choose music for certain parts of the class (i.e., warm-up) can help encourage participation.
  • Use props to enhance movement learning: Using props can encourage spontaneous movement and take the pressure off learning particular actions. Objects such as coloured scarves, light weight balls, balloons and textured fabric can be used to enhance the child’s enjoyment.
  • Work with a buddy or pair: Working in pairs, children can help each other go over the steps they have learned. Having a buddy may also help kids feel that they fit in.

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