Language Disorders and Motor Impairment

Did you know there is a significant incidence of co-morbidity of language disorder and motor impairment in school aged children……

There are 2 – 10% primary aged kids with language deficits and 5 – 15% primary aged kids with motor skill deficits…and of these children there is a 40 – 70% overlap/co-occurence.

This suggests a single underlying aetiology – both problems a manifestation of one underlying problem (eg. some CNS dysfunction).  Alternatively, one problem may exist and this then results in the secondary problem. eg. primary language difficulty results in difficulty making friends and engaging in play…so motor skills don’t have opportunity to develop.  Or, primary motor problem so the child avoids play opportunities so misses out on social language or avoids colouring/drawing/writing so misses out on early literacy development.

More likely a single underlying cause which results in both deficits.  Many theories have been investigated – eg. developmental lag, motor planning/ sequencing/ timing deficit, problem with intrahemispheric connection, vestibular system problem, cerebellum dysfunction.

What we definitely know is that there is lots we don’t know!  We also know that –

– there is some underlying neurological aetiology

– it’s all extremely complex – probably not one single cause

– the co-existing problems occur in the areas of speech, language, gross motor and fine motor skills

– all of the sensory systems are involved

– the brain is very plastic – especially with younger children – so the sooner we intervene, the better the outcome for the child

– no one person or profession has all the answers – educators, doctors and allied health professionals (speech, OT, physio, psychologists) all need to work together and with the families for optimal outcomes for these kids!

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