“When we see 12-year-olds playing soccer, we’ll have some 12-year-olds with developmental disabilities, and their motor skills might look more like a 6-year-old,” said researcher Megan MacDonald in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences, who studies movement and physical activity in children. “If we can give them more opportunities to improve those motor skills, they’ll have more opportunity to engage in those activities.”
‘Parents of young kids with developmental disabilities can indirectly be linked to the motor skills of their kids by supporting physical activity. ’
The study surveyed 135 parents of children with developmental disabilities ages 5-7.
Survey questions about “parental explicit modeling” asked parents how often they and their families engaged in physical activity, as well as how they used their own behavior to encourage activity. “Parental tangible support” included creating a supportive environment with actions like driving kids to and from recreational activities and watching their games or activities.
Both factors had a significant positive impact on increasing physical activity among children, which then positively impacted the development of the children’s motor skills.
Intervening early sets children up to have more opportunity for physical activity in the future, and takes advantage of the fact that younger kids already spend more time watching and copying their parents, MacDonald said.
Parents of children with developmental disabilities have more to think about than parents whose children don’t have disabilities, she said: They might want to prioritize working on social and communication skills, and its possible physical activity is less of a priority.
“But we’re trying to say, ‘Hey, in physical activity, you can focus on other things too,'” such as teaching social skills or reciprocal communication during a game on the playground, MacDonald said. “So, taking your kid to the park, providing these opportunities, counts on many levels. It’s fun, and it’s healthy.”
“And how you act as a parent is something all kids pick up on, including children with developmental disabilities.”
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