Many parents may wonder why occupational therapists are focusing on strengthening versus the desired activity to meet goals relevant to their child’s fine motor skills. Therapists continue to use words and phrases such as “proximal stability for distal mobility,” but if we don’t understand the importance, why would we challenge our kiddos?
Muscle strength is a vital feature in our lives that most of us take for granted. Without realizing it, we use a tremendous amount of movement recruiting both small and large muscles simultaneously to perform and complete functional tasks everyday. Children struggling to control writing utensils or requiring assistance to complete fine motor skills, often lack appropriate stability and control of their shoulder girdle muscles.
From infancy, we sequentially build muscle strength from our core extending outwards to our limbs, ultimately meeting developmental milestones and improving our skill set. When one's body, shoulder, or arm is moving in space, small movements of the hands and fingers become difficult due to the lack of stability and limited control.
Weight bearing activities develop the muscles of the hand that are responsible for in-hand manipulation skills and dissociation of the two sides of the hand. These hand skills are important for everyday childhood activities such as coloring, cutting, writing, manipulating fasteners, as well as twisting or tearing to open containers. Shoulder exercises can increase shoulder stability, ultimately improving your child’s handwriting and fine motor skills.
Please consult your child’s occupational therapist for further information, questions, or specific home exercise programs.
Written By: Jaclyn Jerse, MS, OTR/L for Oceanside Therapy Group.
Case-Smith, J., Allen, A. S., & Pratt, P. N. (2001). Occupational therapy for children. St. Louis: Mosby.