Balance and Coordination Problems

We rely on balance and coordination in many ways throughout our day. Balance is important to keep ourselves upright and avoid injury in situations like standing on one leg to put on a pair of pants, riding a bike, and reaching to get an object from a distance. Coordination refers to our ability to sequence all the parts of our body appropriately, such as during dancing, jumping jacks, and even just going up and down stairs. Many tasks require both balance and coordination. These high-level skills can be especially challenging for children, since they are just learning these tasks for the first time. If a child has problems with balance or coordination, she may:

Whether playing freeze tag, riding a bike, or just walking down the street, we depend on balance and coordination to support us in our daily activities. When they don’t, especially in children who are just learning some of these skills at the same time that they are most interested in running around, playing sports, and trying new things, problems with balance and coordination can show quite clearly. A child may:

  • Be late in reaching various developmental milestones such as crawling and walking
  • Trip or fall easily, or recover slowly from being off balance
  • Feel woozy or unsteady most of the time
  • Have trouble going down stairs or catching a ball
  • Move stiffly, without fluidity
  • Avoid sports and movement games, preferring computer games or watching TV
  • Have trouble with hand coordination, making it difficult for him to write, cut with scissors, or put on and fasten clothes
  • Have difficulty scaling movements, like throwing a ball gently from a short distance

Various skills and abilities form the basis of balance and coordination:

  • Attention and concentration
  • Body awareness
  • Bilateral integration: Using both hands to do something, with one hand taking the lead
  • Crossing midline: Crossing an arm from one side of the body to the other, such as using the right hand to reach for something on the left
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Hand dominance
  • Muscular strength
  • Muscular endurance
  • Self-regulation
  • Postural control
  • Proprioception: Awareness of body position and movement
  • Sensory processing
  • Isolated movement: Moving one part of the body while keeping the rest still
  • Motor planning

Various systems in the body are crucial to balance and coordination:

  • The inner ear
  • The muscles
  • The senses

How can I help my child with balance and coordination problems?

Here at CTS, our occupational therapists and physical therapists use a wide range of fun strategies to get children with balance and coordination difficulties playing their way to stronger muscles and better integration of body systems. We also work with children whose balance and coordination challenges result from a history of ear infections, or some other trauma or problem in the middle ear.