Friday, October 1, 2010

Why are motor imitation skills important?

It can be very challenging to determine if a young, non-verbal child has childhood apraxia of speech (CAS) or not.  What we can figure out early on in the therapy process is if a young child is having difficulty with motor planning and if so, then we should be using a motor planning approach in therapy.  Remember, motor planning difficulties means the child's brain says "act" but the body doesn't respond.  So, it is best to start with gross and fine motor imitation skills to figure out if the child can imitate larger muscle movements.  The reason we focus so much on motor imitation of actions is because MOTOR IMITATION PRECEDES VERBAL IMITATION!  A child must imitate what we do before he will imitate what we say.  Below are some suggested motor imitation targets:

clap hands
blow a kiss
bang blocks together
fly a toy plane
knock blocks down
pound with a hammer
roll a ball
stomp feet
knock on door
stick out tongue
push toy car
put on a hat
pat a baby doll
sneeze a block off head

Another way to work on motor imitation skills is through songs and finger plays.  Focus on the actions not the words early on.  Below are some suggested songs and finger plays:

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear Turn Around
Wheels on the Bus
If You're Happy and You Know It
Itsy Bitsy Spider
I'm a Little Teapot
Head, Tummy, Knees & Toes
5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed

We must be able to comment on the integrity of the motor planning system when we suspect apraxia in young children.  The best way to begin assessing the motor planning system is through gross and fine motor imitation tasks.

Good luck with your small talkers!


  1. Thanks for a great seminar today in IL! Loved seeing that you have a blog as well. Looks like a great resource; excited to read!

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