Normal development occurs in a series of steps, with each motor act building on skills that have been previously acquired. Both senses of hearing and vision drive the developing young child to orient and move toward people and objects in the environment. When impairments of both these senses are present, the young child who is deafblind usually experiences delays in motor development due to the decrease in vital sensory input needed to stimulate movement. These delays can occur even when the young child's motor system is intact and can include delays in gross motor skills, fine motor skills, and self-help skills like dressing, bathing, etc. Some children who are deafblindness also have additional problems with development of motor skills. Children with cerebral palsy would be in this category.
Motor skills hat require movement into the environment, such as crawling and walking, can be particularly delayed in children with deafblindness. These skills can be slower to develop than the motor skills that are more static, such as learning to sit in one place.
Children who are deafblind can also experience dealers in motor development due to their preference for certain positions. For example, lying on the stomach is frequently a position that children with deafblindness do not like do to lack of visual input from this position. However, this position is necessary for a young child to experience in order to develop adequate head and trunk control, and control of the arms. In addition, children with deafblindness may experience fear or defensiveness about being touched or moved. These fears can be reduced or avoided by communicating to the child that something is about to occur, whether through touch cues, signs, or other means. Parents and school personnel should work together to provide a variety of positioning and movement experiences for the child who is deafblind in order to stimulate as normal a development of motor skills as possible.
Physical therapists, occupational therapists, and/or speech therapists may all be possible sources of assistance for the child with motor delays. During early child development, many therapy areas may overlap in their effort to develop skills the young child with deafblindness may need to achieve (e.g., development of head and trunk control). This overlap is because may subsequent developmental skills require early, basic skills as prerequisites. Traditionally, the physical therapist focuses on facilitating the development of gross motor skills, and prescribing positioning and mobility equipment. The occupational therapist works on fine motor skills, oral motor feeding skills, self-help skills, integration of sensory information, and prescribing equipment / devices which assist the individual to become more independent in activities of daily living such as eating, dressing, bathing, etc. The speech therapist focuses on development of language and communication skills, prescribing any necessary communication systems or devices, and may also work on oral motor feeding skills. Professionals and parents need to work together to give children with deafblindness the experiences and/or adaptations necessary to develop their motor skills to the fullest.