Gross Motor Development is Key to Other Developmental Areas

Early Intervention is designed to promote development and address specific developmental delays. These services are mandated under a federal law call the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). Common therapies that the child and family may receive include Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy and Developmental Therapy. Early Intervention should begin as soon as possible once a delay is discovered.

Gross Motor delays are sometimes not discovered until a child is not sitting independently or rolling. Some typical ranges for Gross Motor Milestones include: Sits Independently- 5 to 9 months, Crawling on hands and knees- 6 to 12 months, Stands without assistance-8 to 17 months, Walking Independently-9 to 18 months. Physical Therapists use tests designed to determine if gross motor skills are delayed or are still within a normal range of development. Your Physical Therapist will also assess your child’s muscle tone, range of motion, reflexes, and quality of movement.

Physical development is key to the foundation for all other developmental areas. Movement is key to allow babies to have purposeful exploration of their environment. In turn, this also stimulates cognitive, language, and social development.

If a gross motor delay is found, then your Physical Therapist may suggest activities, positioning, developmental toys and equipment that will assist in progressing physical skills. Common activities include tummy time (sometimes with additional chest support), supported sitting skills, trunk strengthening using therapy balls or balance discs, small wrist or ankle weights applied during functional reaching/play skills, and/or lower extremity braces or orthotics to promote alignment due to weak muscles or ligamentous laxity.

Early intervention has been shown to result in the child: (a) needing fewer special education and other rehabilitative services later in life; (b) repeating grades less often; and (c) in some cases, were able to show abilities similar to their peers who did not have a need for early intervention.

Contact your state’s Early Intervention Program if you have concerns with your child’s development. A referral can come from you, the parent, or from your child’s physician, or from another agency. Visit to learn more about IDEA or to find additional resources.

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Mary Jane Baniak, Ph.D.

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