Monday, September 12, 2011

Early Motor Experiences and Social Interaction

A recent study was performed with 36, three month old infants. Half of the group received active motor experiences using sticky mittens that had Velcro on them. The infants used the sticky mittens to swipe at objects which would get stuck onto the mitten giving feedback to the infant as if they grasped an object. This was done 10 minutes each day for 2 weeks. The other half of the group received passive motor experiences where parents provided the stimulation but the infants still played with the mittens and similar toys. Finally, there were two control groups of non reaching 3 month old infants and 5 month old infants.  By tracking infant eye moments following the training period the results indicated the following:
  1. active group showed a preference for faces over objects  whereas the passive group had no preference
  2. the social preferences of the 3 month olds who received the sticky mitten training were simliar to the 5 month old social preferences in the control group
  3. regardless of any group, the more the infants practiced reaching the stronger their preference for faces
The researchers concluded that early motor experiences is associated with the ability to orient towards faces.   The group will be followed for one year to see if the social development gains are maintained.

Here are some thoughts I had about this study.  What does this mean in terms of adapting the environment for young infants with disabilities?  At times, therapist may choose not to adapt the environment for an infant to give them time to learn the skills first.  When you read this small but interesting study one has to question is this the best choice?  Should we, as therapists, be offering suggestions to adapt the environment for infants as early as possible to promote social and cognitive development?  When you have an infant with an extensive medical history that is high risk for being diagnosed with a developmental disability at what age do you start to adapt the environment or provide adaptive equipment?  Do you start as young as 3 months?

Another interesting point from this study is to perhaps try this velcro mitten with young infants who are at risk for developmental delay to encourage social development. 

Want to read more on this topic?  Read this previous post on walking and social interactions.

Reference:  Early motor experiences give infants a social jump start. Retrieved from the web on 9/10/11 from


TherExtras said...

Nicely done, Margaret!

"Should we, as therapists, be offering suggestions to adapt the environment for infants as early as possible to promote social and cognitive development?"

Yes, but not to the exclusion of promoting more motor development.

At what age? - I don't think it is possible to answer that question.


Your Therapy Source Inc said...

I am assuming not possible to answer because it is a case by case situation correct? I agree with that 100%. I just wish that children were referred more frequently as young as 3 months.