Home
Sensory 101
Sensory links
Sensory in school
Fine Motor 101
Fine motor tools
Fine motor activities
Oral issues
Handwriting
Buy my stuff!
Site map

        Motor Planning:
The process of taking in sensory information about one's environment as well as one's own place in space, movement, force, and so on in order to successfully imagine and complete a motoric task.
For example: think about the process of learning to drive a standard transmission automobile. You need to be able to know how far to reach to the gear shift without looking. Which pedals your feet are on without looking. How hard you are pushing on each pedal. How far you are turning the wheel and in what direction. When exactly you should move to shift gears, take your foot off the clutch, etc. etc. And you need to be able to judge whether your first movements were correct and to quickly correct the force, speed, direction, and timing of your movements. THAT is motor planning. We take it for granted every day, but for many children this process is not as easy as it should be.
Difficulties with motor planning can exist in the area of ideation...
A child may have a hard time imagining how she could move herself in relation to other objects when she is trying a new activity.
...Or in the area of motor output...
She may see what she wants to do, but makes errors in the timing, force, or range of her motions so that she, for example, doesn't step high enough to clear a step and trips on it instead.
...Or both!
Technically, motor output can be further broken down into "feed-forward" -- this is the process of the brain predicting what it will feel like and what will happen when the movement begins; sort of a super-quick visualizationand "feedback" -- meaning sensing what is happening with the movement and comparing it to the predictive model, in order to make adjustments as needed. (For ex., if a glass being lifted is heavier than it looked, it won't move and greater force needs to be applied).
One more thing: to really look at a child's motor planning, you have to watch during novel, unrehearsed activities.
Think again about the example of driving a stick-shift car. After a year or two of driving, barely any thought is necessary to reach accurately for the gear shift, turn the steering wheel the right amount, and use the correct timing and force on the pedals. That isn't because your motor planning skills have improved; it's because you have a file in your brain of "driving a stick shift" and you just run the various bits of that file, with slight adjustments as needed, on auto-pilot. If you took a trip and rented a manual car with the driver's seat on the "wrong" side, that would be true motor planning again!