Movement Education for the Disabled Research Paper Starter

Movement Education for the Disabled

(Research Starters)

Movement education is a philosophy that proposes that a child with a disability can enhance his or her learning through the use of movement. For individuals with disabilities, movement education is a treatment option. Movement education encompasses a broad range of activities. This essay provides a general overview of the types of movement disorders and movement education for the disabled as it is used in the public schools.

Keywords Adapted Physical Education; Cerebral Palsy; Language and Movement; Movement Disorders; Movement Education; Music Therapy; Multiple Intelligences; Neurodevelopmental Treatment; Play; Proprioceptive Disorders; Sensory Integration; Spatial Awareness


Professionals, such as teachers, therapists, and paraprofessionals, in special education need to possess a basic understanding of movement disorders. In addition, parents and caregivers need education on how to incorporate movement into everyday activities. If a child has difficulty moving, then the child will have difficulty experiencing his or her environment.

Movement disorders can occur independently; have a range of severity from mild/minimal to severe/profound; and/or occur in conjunction with a syndrome. If an individual lacks motor control, then he or she will have difficulty interacting with people and/or the environment. The lack of involvement can impact educational outcomes as the individual will not be able to use all of his or her available senses to learn from and interact with the environment.

Movement disorders can affect education in terms of writing, spatial awareness, body awareness, relationships, and proprioceptive disorders (Morris, 1991; Raines & Canady, 1990; Sawyer & Sawyer, 1993; Treviranus & Roberts, 2003; Workinger, 2005). Motor deficits in any of these areas can decrease an individual's ability to interact to the maximum extent possible with his or her environment. Through movement the individual learns to interact with the environment which directly influences the developmental areas of cognition, language, social, and self-help skills.

The discussion of movement education will provide an overview of different disabilities that movement disorders often impact. Movement disorders can be an individual disorder or a disorder related to developmental disabilities. For the purposes of this paper, movement education for disabilities will be framed around cerebral palsy. Motor deficits in cerebral palsy have advanced the knowledge base of understanding how movement disorders can be treated and incorporated into many different activities.

Defining Movement Education

Child development specialists value the need to develop the whole child. In developing the whole child, activities are centered on what children normally do-play. Through play, a child motorically engages with the environment as a mechanism to learn and integrate information about the physical, cognitive, motor, and language aspects of development (Pica, 2004).

Movement education can be simply defined as educating one to move his or her body. The field of physical education, occupational therapy, physical therapy, dance, gymnastics, games, and even speech therapy use principles of movement education. The concept of teaching someone through movement is not a new concept as evidenced in the child development literature. The importance of motor or movement skills is considered to be a basic activity of daily living. However, unless a significant motor impairment exists its importance in overall development is often overlooked. Educators are cautioned to remember the importance that motor development has a direct impact on cognitive skills.

Treating Cerebral Palsy

In the 1960s, a resurgence of the study of movement disorders occurred and focused primarily on individuals with cerebral palsy (McDonald & Chance, 1964; Workinger, 2005). One theory that gained a lot of attention was Kephart's (1960) perceptual-motor development theory. This theory of motor development hypothesized that behaviors develop through a hierarchy of motor movements. Kephart further stated that the use of motor activities in instruction enhanced an individual's academic performance. While his theory is not well supported for enhancing academic achievement, Kephart's theory advanced the dialogue of the interconnectedness of the neural networks for all developmental tasks. In other words, if there is a deficit in motor development then this deficit can influence other developmental areas.

In response to the growing literature on movement disorders in children with cerebral palsy, child development specialists (i.e., teachers, therapists) began to refocus on the fact that children, regardless of ability, learn through play. Play allows the individual to experiment, explore, and discover an individual's environment. Through play, an individual can use his or her motor skills to develop or enhance skills in language, cognition, emotional, social, and rhythm skills (Pica, 2004). Each of these skills serves as an important foundational skill in learning how to read, write, and perform mathematical computations (Pica, 2004).

The movement education literature has been heavily influenced by information gained from investigating cerebral palsy. Therefore, cerebral palsy will be used as a framework for discussion of movement education in terms of the disabled. Additionally, the reader will also be presented with limited information on the types of approaches for which evidence-based research exists. The information presented can be used when treating individuals with other disabilities such as autism and mental retardation.


Cerebral Palsy as a Movement Disorder

When treating individuals with disabilities, best practice calls for the use of a team approach (Mauer, 1999; Morris, 1991). Each team member (i.e., parent, teachers, therapists) brings a unique perspective and expertise to the team. As such, each team member must have a basic understanding of all the developmental areas. In terms of individuals with movement disorders, a basic understanding of motor movement terminology and how other team members use it is needed (Langley & Thomas, 1991; Treviranus & Roberts, 2003; Workinger, 2005). Cerebral palsy will be defined as a disorder and a brief overview of the types of motor movement and muscle tone differences will be provided.

The definition of cerebral palsy can slightly vary among authors. However, a basic definition of cerebral palsy is a movement disorder that is caused by neurological difficulties in the brain (Langley & Thomas, 1991; McDonald & Chance, 1964; Workinger, 2005). Additionally, the term cerebral palsy is an umbrella term that represents different types of movement disorders (Langley & Thomas, 1991; McDonald & Chance, 1964; Treviranus & Roberts, 2003; Workinger, 2005).

Cerebral palsy typically is defined by the type of motor movement and muscle tone differences the individual exhibits (Langley & Thomas, 1991; McDonald & Chance, 1964; Workinger, 2005). The types of cerebral palsy are spastic, dyskinetic, hypotonic, and ataxic (Langley & Thomas, 1991; McDonald & Chance, 1964; Treviranus & Roberts, 2003; Workinger, 2005). A basic definition/description of spastic cerebral palsy includes stiff muscles, limited range of motion, and resistance to passive movement (McDonald & Chance, 1964; Treviranus & Roberts, 2003; Workinger, 2005). Dyskinetic cerebral palsy is manifested by movements that seem uncoordinated, instability in posture, and movements that are not well timed and affected by the direction and spatial characteristics of the individual (McDonald & Chance, 1964; Treviranus & Roberts, 2003; Workinger, 2005). Motor movements that consist of extreme joint flexibility, instability in posture, and moves between spastic and atheotisis is defined as hypotonic (Langley & Thomas, 1991; McDonald & Chance, 1964; Treviranus & Roberts, 2003; Workinger, 2005). The last type of movement disorder is ataxic. Ataxia is characteristized by tremors, balance disorders, and uncoordinated movements (Langley & Thomas, 1991; McDonald & Chance, 1964; Treviranus & Roberts, 2003; Workinger, 2005).

According to Workinger (2005), limb movement disorders can be classified in different ways as well. Disorders can be classified as monoplegia (involving one limb); hemiplegia (involving limbs on one side of the body); diplegia (involving all limbs with movement difficulties in the legs); quadriplegia or tetaplegia (all limbs are equally involved or arms are more affected than legs); triplegia (involvement of three limbs); and, paraplegia (involvement of legs only) (p.4).

The development of normal movements disorders has been described by Connor, Williamson, and Siepp (1978), as cited in Workinger (2005), as a sequential development with one skill building the foundation for the next; an overlapping of the sequential development with the other areas of development; maturation of the motor system occurring first as gross motor skills and refined into fine motor movements allowing independent movement of each motor act; development of the motor system staring...

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