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Motor development and Down syndrome


The chapter aims to analyze motor development in Down syndrome (DS) population. In the light of a holistic perspective to typical and atypical development, there is a renewed scientific interest on the role of motor skills to promote general health. A multidisciplinary approach, that involves findings from psychology, neuroscience, kinesiology and education is employed. Motor proficiency is a set of functions necessary for everyday life which allow moving around in the environment and manipulating tools; it's typically articulated into posture, gross motor and fine motor skills. Ample research highlighted a strong correlation among Intellectual Quotient and motor skills demonstrating how children with Intellectual Disabilities show impaired motor development with consequences on daily functioning and autonomy. DS motor impairments are generally characterized by restrictions in motor planning and control, retarded achievement of locomotor milestones, deficiencies in fine motor and writing skills and difficulties on manual dexterity tasks. Poor motor proficiency in people with DS arises a scientific debate between two perspectives: the “delay hypothesis” and the “interindividual variability hypothesis”. The first one is based on the evidence that milestones of motor development in people with DS exhibit delayed mean ages of achievement compared to typically developing peers and this gap increases with the age and the difficulty of motor tasks. Nevertheless, the variability hypothesis is based on the evidence that people with DS exhibit a large variability in their motor performances and in the chronological age range of acquisition of their motor skills. These two perspectives drive assessment methods and intervention programs