The main goal of early intervention physiotherapy is to reduce the effect of disrupted brain development on a child’s movement development, from the beginning.

Babies learn many gross motor skills in a short period, in the first two years of life, including reaching, grasping, sitting and walking. The earliest baby movements are spontaneous, and they show a lot of variation. This variation provides a baseline from which all babies’ movement develops from, and helps them become successful movers. Trial and error is an important tool in a baby’s learning because it helps them to work out the best ways to do skilled movement tasks.

If brain development is disrupted early in life it can impact how movement and sensation is interpreted. This can reduce the movement variation baseline, and so reduce the range of movement options available to the baby. This means that their movement may look difficult, often slower and more awkward, which can cause delay in reaching important gross motor milestones, such as sitting. The main goal of early intervention physiotherapy is to reduce the effect of disrupted brain development on a child’s movement development, from the beginning.

Why does EiSMART have a Motor thread?

Early movement skill development will influence development in other areas. A baby’s genes and their environment have a great influence on movement development, but early disruption to the brain can also cause a range of outcomes, such as cerebral palsy. Understanding typical and atypical motor development, and its influence on other areas of development, is important to develop good early intervention programmes.

The earliest movement is spontaneous and begins in the womb. This movement also creates an early experience for both sensory (sensation) and cognitive understanding. After birth this continues, where a babies’ curiosity (cognitive drive) in their environment helps to encourage movement for exploration of their world. The result is that this, in turn, gives sensory and cognitive information that will be used to shape future behaviour through learning.

Sensory, motor, and cognitive development are strongly inter-related. Learning to be stable in different postures (e.g. sitting) is important, for example, to enable visual development, which influences attention and communication with carers. Early therapies for movement not only improve precise movement in that moment, but also provide building blocks for future cognitive development.  


How can parents apply the Motor thread, to support their high risk infants?

When a baby’s movement variation is reduced, carefully considered physical support and changes in the environment can be made to aid exploration. Doing this in a wide variety of individually and developmentally appropriate activities is best, and can be developed and practised with families.

Postural stability can help with infant self-soothing, which goes hand-in-hand with helping the engagement of the infant in any given activity. Encouraging a baby to initiate movement by themselves (e.g. through play with carers or toys), making things slightly more difficult with practice, and repeating these activities gives the best chance of improving movement and cognition.

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