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The gift of physical movement offers us the opportunity to either reach toward the stars or stoop to sniff a spring flower: Opportunities and blessings abound. This chapter is dedicated to my mentor and friend, Bonnie Marsden, PT. She taught me the value of keen observation and tireless inquiry, so that I would be challenged to always give my best, stay inquisitive, and therefore be delighted with my work. Thank you, Bonnie.

Cornerstone Concepts

  • Motor development as a lifelong nonlinear process generally divided into the phases of early development, maturation (infancy, childhood, and adolescence), maturity (adulthood), and aging

  • Overview of classic development theories: Piaget, Erikson, and neuromaturational; dynamic system perspective on motor development and therapeutic intervention

  • Current usefulness of motor milestone charts and developmental milestones

  • Functional movement components needed for upper and lower extremity control and postural control

  • Development during infancy and childhood as a process model

  • Major developmental changes in upper and lower extremity control and postural control encountered during maturation, maturity, and aging

Physical and occupational therapists have historically studied human motor development as a keystone concept guiding assessment and intervention with patients/clients with neurological or developmental disabilities. Traditionally, the study of motor development focused on the development of the child and acquired motor components were then presented as milestones, hallmarks of “normal” or typical motor development. Developmental change was thought to correlate only with maturation of the central nervous system (CNS). This narrow view has now been expanded because it has been realized that the nervous system is not the only system that determines developmental change. As detailed in the previous chapter, changes in other systems, such as the musculoskeletal and sensory systems, also influence motor development. Each system interacts with each other, within the environment, in complex and fascinating ways to effect changes in motor behavior that continue throughout the life span. Movement expression, then, comes about as a result of all the convergent influences and changes acting on the individual at any point, as that individual moves to perform a task within a specific environmental context.

Development can be thought of as a change in form and function, where form and function are intertwined (Cech & Martin, 1995; Higgins, 1985). The form a movement takes is largely determined by the function for which it is intended. Simultaneously, the function, which emerges or becomes possible, is largely dependent on the available forms of movement and the developmental phase of the structures. Development is not simply growth. Developmental changes occur through the processes of growth, maturation, adaptation, and learning. Growth refers to an increase in size and weight—changes in the physical dimensions of the body (Cech & Martin, 1995). Growth is an important parameter of developmental change because some changes are linked to changes in body size; ...

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