If your child struggles with any of the above mentioned tasks, then they are demonstrating central nervous system immaturity; and if they are being asked to complete reading, writing, and spelling tasks at this time, they will likely experience difficulties with some aspect of academic success and/or feel unsuccessful. The reason that these activities are so important, is that they set the foundation that is needed in order to learn with purpose, not just memorization. For instance, a child that learns to read before they are able to gallop or skip, will learn to read by sight, instead of phonetically. This occurs because both skipping and galloping help to set neural net foundations on the right and left side of the brain, as well as across the middle of the brain. If they have not set these neural nets in place that do cross from one side of the brain to the other, a communication traffic jam occurs when it is time to process and/or motor plan for an activity. The right and left side of the brain will be unsure where to pull information from and which side to send it to. In the case of reading without appropriate right and left brain connection, children with inappropriate laterality will not always be able to distinguish between similarly shaped words, and will guess at what words are on a page (examples: Ship and Shop, Cat and Oat, Clap and Clay). Children may also confuse the inner pieces of words due to the need to look at the shape as a whole instead of the letters in between (example: Teh fox jmuped oevr the brwon dog). This kind of nervous system immaturity creates poor reading comprehension, poor understanding of spelling and frustration with reading activities.
In most educational settings, when children demonstrate delays in reading, writing or spelling, the educational system will seek to improve these skills, by providing assistance in the academic setting with the focus on repetition of the tasks until mastered. Unfortunately, for children with central nervous system immaturity, the more a task that is difficult due to CNS immaturity is completed without the right foundation, the more the child will struggle. The more the child struggles, the more likely the child will learn to just memorize the task. In the case of memorization, the child will possibly learn to read, but never comprehend well, or will learn site words, but always confuse and/or misspell certain words (their, there, them, the). The idea of learning will become, "How can I memorize this?" instead of, "How can I learn this and apply it to other contexts."
If we constantly teach children to memorize the tasks of reading, writing and spelling, how will they ever learn to branch off from memorizing and really feel what they are learning? How can we expect our children to be creative and spontaneous, try things, problem solve, if we are always teaching them that the best way to learn is to practice with the same rote memory tasks until they stick? This is where a shift can occur, and we can teach our children the foundational skills they need to be successful.
I have learned in my 6 years of practice, that working on the skills listed above is what really matters. I have seen countless times, if you address crawling and visual tracking, writing improves without sitting at a table. If you address mid-line development and calm the nervous system down, body drawings improve. If you address skipping and perception/awareness of shapes, letters, and numbers that reading improves. All of this progress is possible, at a very fast rate, and without the need to sit and practice it. I have found that the less time spent working on the actual delayed skill, and the more play that is added to a child's day, is the key to building successful academic experiences
If your child appears to be lacking the skills needed to be successful in the school environment OR if they are receiving additional assistance in school and continue to struggle academically, an Occupational Therapy evaluation is highly recommended. Occupational Therapy focused on neurodevelopmental programs is highly effective and produces fast results, in as little as 12-24 weeks.
The Information above was compiled from clinician experience, as well as courses, texts, and conversations had with Susan R. Johnson MD, FAAP (www.youandyourchildshealth.org) and Maxine Haller, MOT, OTR/L (www.cardinalcapers.com).