top of page

The Importance of Gross Motor Movements for Children with Autism

Gross motor is referred to as big movement or large muscle movement. It is the use of individual functions, together with large muscle movements, to improve the motor function of individuals with planned and systematic physical movements, in order to promote physical and mental development and achieve the purpose of rehabilitation.

Why does autism rehabilitation require gross motor training? The fact that a child with autism has some development of motor skills, or that basic movements are more coordinated, can only be said to have the function and potential for development, which can never replace the level of development that should be achieved.

So what role does motor training play in the treatment and development of children with special needs? And What are some of the issues that should be considered in gross motor training


The Importance of  Gross Motor Training

(1) Promote brain development

Gross motor movement skills are closely related to the growth and development of children. For example, a normal child should begin to roll over at 3 months, sit at 6 months, crawl at 8 months, stand at 10 months, walk at over one year, walk freely at one and a half years, and run at two years. Imagine a child who can't walk by the age of two or three, there must be something wrong with the nerves in the brain. This shows that the development of children's motor ability is under the control of the nerves and muscles of the brain, and the ability to move is an important sign of its level of growth and development.

Children's intellectual development can be promoted through motor training. For example, practicing the movement of walking in a straight line with both feet exercises vision and the sense of correct foot division and balance posture, etc. There is also crawling and pattern training, which has been described as brain surgery without opening the skull. The famous psychologist Piaget, when discussing the theory of children's cognitive development, believed that in the process of child development, movement is the source of all knowledge.

The importance of movement development to children's intellectual development is fully emphasized. In practice, we have also seen some children with autism improve their symptoms and improve their abilities to some extent after motor training. It can be inferred that it is the brain function that has improved. Therefore, the training of gross motor coordination is an effective way to promote children's brain development and help intellectual development.

(2) Promote the development of language and communication skills

Some children with autism have poor language and communication skills, or even no language, or can only make some simple sounds. A single language training (language training for language) for such children will not work. The formation and development of language is a complex process that includes the development of language nerves in the brain, the development of language organs, the use of breathing and breath, the development of cognitive abilities, the influence of the language environment, and so on. Therefore, the causes of language development disorders in children with autism are multifaceted, and motor training can play a role in promoting their language development. In particular, doing a lot of bouncing exercises can improve the smoothness of breath, and talking while jumping can improve the function of vocal cords and enhance the power of articulation.

(3) Promote attention development

Attention problems are a common problem in the development of children with autism, and the use of gross motor training can help them improve their attention span. The process of movement itself requires attention, such as: shooting a ball, throwing and catching a ball, kicking a ball, sliding a slide, walking a balance beam, etc. Especially walking a balance beam is very helpful in training concentration. In addition, children who are interested in moving objects, which will easily attract their attentions. Thus, after a period of training, you will find that children’s attention have improved.

(4) Promote healthy physical growth

A healthy body is the material basis for intellectual development and is necessary for adapting to the environment. Exercise promotes blood circulation and energy consumption, improves the function of all body organs, and promotes growth and development. Some children with autism have poor physical development, for example, some are shorter than children of the same age, some are thin and weak, and some are too obese. Only by improving their physical body can they develop better all rounded.

(5) Stabilize emotions and change behavior

Human behavior is often affected by emotions, especially children with autism have poor control over their behavior. Their emotions fluctuate greatly and they cannot express themselves, often venting, developing from crying and fussing to aggression, destruction, self-injury and other behaviors. Exercise creates chemical changes in the body that generate pleasure and joy. Children do a variety of beneficial activities under the guidance of teachers, and also receive praise and rewards, thus effectively limiting bad behavior, (so that they have no chance of repeating it) so that good behavior is reinforced and developed. Therefore, gross motor training is the process of replacing undesirable behaviors with beneficial activities, and is an effective way to change undesirable behaviors.

(6) Promote the development of balance and spatial perception

Balance is a basic ability that children must have in their development. Spatial perceptual ability has a significant contribution to the development of thinking. Therefore, improved balance allows children to receive, conduct, and integrate information from all senses. Most children with autism have poor balance, so doing cartwheels, rolling, skateboarding, climbing, walking on a balance beam, spinning and left and right hand and left and right foot coordination activities (such as kicking a ball, running, going up and down stairs, etc.) can effectively improve body balance and spatial perception.

Issues that should be noted in the gross motor training of autism rehabilitation:

1. Always observe the performance of the autistic child in training, especially the developmental changes of the autistic child, which are often very subtle. A parent of a child with autism said when evaluating his or her child's development: The child is improving every day, only very slightly, and can only be discovered by experiencing it with care.

The elements to observe are:

(1) Physical changes: the content, amount and method of exercise are appropriate or not.

(2) Behavioral changes: whether the bad behavior is corrected and whether the desired behavior appears.

(3) Psychological changes: whether their perception, cognition, language interaction and movement skills are improved.

2. Pay attention to the application of the principle of altering between quiescent and dynamic exercises. The physiological characteristics of children are: their bodies contain a lot of water, they are easily fatigued and can recover quickly, so the intensity and density of training should be reasonably arranged.

3. Autism rehabilitation training should be diversified. Motor training should not be a single action repetition, but should be infiltrated with training goals in other areas. For example, awareness of orientation and language development, especially language training should be carried out throughout.

4. New goals should be constantly proposed according to the development of autistic children. When the adaptive ability of autistic children develops, new training contents should be constantly added and the level of training should be improved.

5. Pay attention to the child's physical problems, such as the presence of heart disease, epilepsy and other diseases. These children are generally not suitable for gross motor training.

6. Medical issues. For children with autism who are on medication, it is important to find out what kind of medication they are taking, whether it is suitable for training and whether it has an impact on training.

7. Strengthen nutrition and a reasonable diet. When doing gross motor training, the calorie consumption of the body is high, so timely taking enough nutrition is very necessary.

The above contents are all from the official website, 

 Early Signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder

Many children on the autism spectrum may show developmental differences during their infant and toddlers years, especially in social and language skills.

There may be some delays in spoken language or differences in how they interact with peers. However, children on the autism spectrum usually sit, crawl, and walk on time. So, the subtler differences in the development of gestures (pointing), pretend play and social language often go unnoticed by families and doctors.

Here is information from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) about three of the early signs of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in young children.
















Delay in or lack of joint attention

One of the most important developmental differences between children on the autism spectrum and children without ASD is a delay in or lack of joint attention. In fact, delays in joint attention skills are found in most children with ASD.

What is joint attention?

Joint attention is looking back and forth between an object or event and another person and connecting with that person. It is a building block for later social and communication skills. Engaging in many back-and-forth social interactions, such as exchanging a lot of emotional expressions, sounds and other gestures, is called reciprocal social interaction.

Stages of joint attention in babies & toddlers

There are several stages of joint attention. Children on the autism spectrum usually show delayed or absent social communication skills at every stage.

For example, below are the ages when babies and toddlers typically use and understand gestures at the following times, compared with young children on the autism spectrum.

Using & understanding gestures such as pointing

  • By 12 months of age

    • Most children can immediately look in the direction of an object a parent is pointing at. They will then look back at the parent and mimic the parent's expression, usually a smile.

    • Children on the autism spectrum may appear to ignore the parent. This can cause parents to worry about their child's hearing.

  • By 15 months of age

    • Most children can point to out-of-reach objects that they want.

    • A child on the autism spectrum may instead take a parent's hand and lead the parent to the object without making much, if any, eye contact. Sometimes the child may even place the parent's hand onto the object itself.

  • By 18 months of age

    • Most children point at objects they find interesting. Children will look back and forth between an object and a parent to make sure the parent is tuned-in to what they are looking at.

    • Children on the autism disorder spectrum will often point to an object because they want a parent to get it for them, not because they want the parent to enjoy looking at the object with them.

Language delays & differences with ASD

Almost all children on the autism disorder spectrum show delays in nonverbal communication and spoken language. For example, you may notice differences such as:

The use of labels

A child on the autism spectrum may have words they use to label things, for example, but not to ask for things. They may use words for objects before using words for people or family members.

Echoing & repeating

Most young children go through a phase when they repeat what they hear. Children on the autism disorder spectrum may repeat what they hear for a longer period. They also may repeat dialogue from movies or conversations with the tone of voice they heard them in. This is called parroting or echoing.

Some children later diagnosed on the autism spectrum will seem to have met language milestones during the toddler years. However, their use of language may be unusual. For example, they may talk more like an adult than a toddler.

Regression in developmental milestones & skills

About 25% of children later diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder may develop some language that they suddenly or gradually stop using. Typically, this may happen between the ages of 15 and 24 months. They might also become more socially withdrawn. This change is called regression in skills.

The above contents are all from the official website,

bottom of page