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Chapter Objectives

Upon completion of this chapter, the learner should be able to:

  1. Describe the theoretical foundations that explain the complexity of neuromotor development and aging.

  2. Apply the theoretical foundations of a lifespan perspective to examination of neuromotor development.

  3. Apply knowledge of changes in various body systems with aging and their possible effects on functional activities such as ambulation.

  4. Explain the concept of variability as related to neuromotor development.

  5. Describe strategies for optimizing a child’s performance of neuromotor or functional tasks in a testing situation.

  6. Provide the rationale for selecting a specific standardized test of neuromotor development.

Neuromotor development is the process of change in motor behavior related to the age of the individual. Knowledge of neuromotor development is fundamental to understanding the development of functional movement and employing effective strategies for the evaluation and treatment of patients with neurological conditions across the lifespan. It is impossible to consider motor development in isolation; it must be considered within a broader context. Whole textbooks have been written on the development of functional movement or motor development across the lifespan (Cech, 2012; Gabbard 2016; Haywood, 2014; Payne, 2012). What follows is intended to create a basic framework for understanding a complex and evolving body of knowledge as it applies to the developing human from conception to death. Lifespan is categorized by periods: prenatal (conception to birth), infancy (birth to 1 year), childhood (1 to 10 years), adolescence (11 to 19 years), adulthood (20 to 59 years), and late adulthood (60 years to death). At the risk of oversimplifying, we tend to think of development in terms of maturation during the early part of the lifespan and of decline during the latter part.

Neuromotor assessment must capture the dynamic nature of the process, and measurement tools that contribute meaningfully to the overall evaluation of the patient and the longterm goals of therapeutic intervention must be utilized. Examination of other musculoskeletal and neuromuscular aspects of functional movement and the movement system covered in other chapters obviously provides an important foundation for understanding neuromotor development. Knowledge about the status of an individual’s cognition and perception is also important.

The purpose of this chapter is to provide overviews of neuromotor development, the theoretical constructs that describe its complexity across the lifespan, and the principles of neuromotor examination and an introduction to selected tools for the assessment of motor development in the pediatric population. With age, the contributions of various intrinsic and extrinsic variables and their interplay with experience, culture, gender, and environment all influence motor development. The resulting complexity makes it more difficult to establish norms for motor development with increasing age. Functional measures, which rely on the interplay of multiple systems, are more meaningful and more commonly used in the assessment of older adults. Functional assessment mea sures are covered in depth in Chapter 10.

Overview of Developmental and Aging Theories

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