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Motor skills are key to early health development – UofSC News & Events

Children show dramatic improvements with modest intervention



Ali Brian’s research on physical education so far highlights two things: Most children, with or without disabilities, are lagging behind in the development of their gross motor skills, and these skills can significantly improve with just a small dose of intervention.

Brian’s research focuses on preschoolers and students with visual impairments, but at the heart of his two lines of research is the development of motor skills – the ability to run, jump, hop, throw, bounce and catching a ball – and its role in guiding students towards good health.

Brian entered graduate school in physical education hoping to work with high school students, but his doctoral supervisor at Ohio State was known for intervening in the motor development of preschoolers. preschool. Likewise, during her first job at Louisiana Tech, she became involved with Camp Abilities, an athletic development camp for visually impaired children, and she began working with one of the world’s leading physical education scholars. for this population. She quickly learned that there was a lot of ground to cover in both areas of research.

It’s amazing what people can do if you design things from the ground up.

Ali Brian, physical education

“I realized there was a huge gap, a great need – that [visually impaired] The population tends to be one of the most sedentary and two and a half times more likely to be obese or overweight than someone without visual impairment,” she says. “Knowing what I know about motor development and its role in physical activity and positive health trajectories, I thought, ‘I better get on it.

“After talking with the two [visually impaired and preschool] populations, we learn to really love it.

His research has shown that nearly 75% of preschoolers have gross motor development delays. But after six weeks of twice-weekly motor interventions guided by a specialist, only 5% of the same children showed delays.

His latest work looked at 700 preschoolers across the country, spanning the full spectrum of income, ethnicity, race and gender. What she discovered was that “developmental delay is not discriminatory. We believe we are embarking on a secular decline in motor skill development.

Although his work has found that children at risk are more likely to face delays in gross motor development, his research shows that all children are at risk, with 75% of his sample of children aged 3 , 4 and 5 year olds scoring 30and percentile or less in their ability to do things like leap, skip, throw, or catch a ball. She has also found that when there is an intervention from trained teachers, such as the Successful Kinesthetic Instruction for Preschoolers (SKIP) program that she uses, children will make noticeable improvements.

“I’m really passionate because we can change kids in as little as six weeks. Two days a week for 30 minutes each, only 60 minutes a week,” she says.

Ideally, Brian would like to see physical education teachers in preschools and a change in policy requiring structured movement time. “We have guidelines, but no policy. People think movement skills emerge, but they need to be taught and practiced in a stimulating way,” she says.

Brian works with programs in Lexington School District 4 and local Head Start Centers, initiating programs and developing targeted intervention strategies to help improve motor skills in young children.

In her other area of ​​work with visually impaired students, she hopes to change the mindset of what she calls a medical model of disability – “I can’t see, therefore I can’t do” – towards a model where it becomes more about considering a person’s strengths and better designing facilities that help everyone succeed.

“I saw blind people in a boat on Lake Ontario. I was on a river in Latvia stand-up paddleboarding and there was a blind boy who completely smoked me, and neither of us had ever been on the river before. It’s amazing what people can do if you design things from the ground up. They put lights on buoys; if you put a beeper on a buoy [people with visual impairments] can navigate.


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Topics: Faculty, Research, Recognition, College of Education

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