What are gross motor skills and why are they important?

Gross Motor Skills is a term often used by teachers, therapists as well as other health care professionals. You may have heard it in passing, referring to another child, or maybe your child is attending therapy to improve their gross motor skills.

In whichever way you may have been exposed, there is often confusion about which specific skills relate to this term. Generally as occupational therapists, we define gross motor skills as those skills in which the whole body (or the majority of the body) is used. The specific core muscle groups are involved, and specific movements are generated.

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These movements, together incorporate activities such as running, jumping, hopping, skipping, as well as playground specific skills including climbing and navigating through a jungle gym.

Why are these skills important? This is a frequently asked question specifically from parents who have children who are currently seeing an OT. These essential gross motor skills form the basis for engagement within, believe it or not, all our daily tasks. Consider this, you wake up in the morning, and prepare to start your day. You move into the shower from your bed. Thereafter, you walk back to your room where you prepare to get dressed. Here it is essential you remain standing on one leg, to put on each leg of your pants. You continue about your day as normal, using the foundation skills you developed as a child.

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From the age of 7, and even 6 within certain environments, you are expected to remain within a classroom routine for an extended period of time within a day. Here, a child is expected to sit upright at a desk, make use of a pen, or other stationary and engage in other tasks such as listening attentively to the teacher, and answering questions he or she poses. In order for a child to keep this position and use their dominant hand, as well as use the cognitive skills necessary for paying attention, a good development of core muscles is essential, all of which develops through our gross motor skills.

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How can you bring gross motor skills into your child’s daily routine? Spend a short period each day encouraging your child to engage in activities in which they should run, jump or climb! Encourage them to catch and throw a ball to each other, or play a game of soccer! Set up a short obstacle course where the child can perform different movements in different positions. By encouraging and stimulating this type of engagement, your child will want to participate in gross motor tasks on their own, stimulating furthermore independent engagement.

Words by Kate Delmont, Occupational Therapist at the Sparrow Schools Educational Trust. Kate holds a BSc from the Witswatersrand University.

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A Building Block Of Future Learning

On 10 May, the Sparrow Foundation School will launch its Natural Science and Technology Centre sponsored by General Electric and Provanage Media Group. In the last 12 months, the school successfully established the Remedial Learning Centre (RLC). This is a long-term infrastructure upgrade that is aimed at creating a hub of remedial instruction within the school. The completed RLC will comprise of three building blocks, two which have already been completed. These are the Literacy Enrichment Centre and The Maths Enrichment Centre. The Science and Technolgy Centre is the last step in completing the RCL.

The Maths Enrichment (ME) Centre

The Maths Enrichment (ME) Centre

The effective teaching of basic concepts relating to science and technology lies central to the learner’s understanding and interaction with the world around him/her. A healthy grasp of concepts related to science and technology can substantially improve the learner’s competency in processing and acquiring new concepts in other subjects.  Outside the classroom, it equips the child with confidence and ability to interact with the world in a productive manner.

As a school focussed on providing progressive, holistic, remedial and special needs education, every learning space the learner encounters must be designed to address the learner’s individual learning style and maximise that learner’s potential to learn and acquire new skills.

The Literacy Enrichment Centre

The Literacy Enrichment Centre

The Foundation School is a primary school offering LSEN and remedial educational environment to learners with special educational needs. The school prioritises learners who come from disadvantaged areas and circumstances. Typically, learners who fall in this category have extremely limited access to quality education. The needs of learners with learning difficulties are largely unaddressed in these areas.

By focussing on these learners, they are provided an opportunity to develop, learn and grow in an educational environment that understand the needs of such learner, while also endeavouring to continually develop and upgrade the learning environment.

In the last 12 months, the school successfully established the Remedial Learning Centre (RLC). This is a long-term infrastructure upgrade that is aimed at creating a hub of remedial instruction within the school. The completed RLC will comprise of three building blocks, two which have already been completed. These are the Literacy Enrichment Centre and The Maths Enrichment Centre. The Science and Technolgy Centre is the last step in completing the RCL.

Words by Jacques Janse van Rensburg, Academic Manager at the Sparrow Schools Educational Trust.

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Canze rises above terrible accident

In June 2013, Diyoko Canze (32) was involved in a terrible motor vehicle accident, leaving him critically injured. He was hospitalised at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital and had to undergo therapy. Canze is a father to a five-year-old son and prior to the accident, he was planning on marrying the mother of his child.

Prior to the accident, he was in a stable job and also holds an IT certificate from Torque IT. His life took a completely different, the accident resulted in speech deficits and noticeable physical defects. He was referred to the Sparrow FET College by his therapist and was enrolled into the End User Computing programme in November 2015.

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After joining the FET College, Canze was referred to the Sparrow Schools Educational Trust’s Occupational Therapist (OT). This was after it was found that Canze had trouble writing as a result of the injuries incurred following the accident.  After undergoing assessment, the OT found that it was best for Canze to make use of typing on a computer within exam periods to enable timeous completion, as well as confidence in his own abilities and overall performance.

Writing aid

Since joining the programme and consulting with the OT, Canze’s speech and writing abilities have improved tremendously. This was thanks to the keyboard and handwriting aid that were provided specially to accommodate his disability. “His progress has really been phenomenal. He’s passionate, he knows why he is here and his heart is fully into it,” says the End User Computing Facilitator, Steven Banda.

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