A very important gross motor skill that kids develop is the ability to walk along a line or balance beam. As they continue to develop & finesse this skill they eventually are able to perform this skill tandemly (heel-to-toe). If a child struggles with balance and is incapable of doing this we often see deficits in their ability to maintain a straight trajectory while walking. This often impacts their ability to walk in a line with classmates while transitioning between classes which ultimately affects their ability to participate in their school environment at the level of their peers.
Here is an example of a goal in regards to this skill of walking on a line that I’m working on with one of the students I see for school-based physical therapy services.
By the end of the IEP year, Name will ambulate 6 consecutive tandem steps on a line in 4/5 trials to improve balance & ability to ambulate with a straight trajectory as well as negotiate turns/changes in direction while in line with his/her classmates during transitions between classes.
So, let’s dive in and discuss what prerequisite skills a child must have to be able to walk tandemly on a line.
They should be able to:
- Stand on one leg long enough (2-3s) to progress & position their foot in front of their weight-bearing leg.
- They must be able to take alternating or reciprocal steps.
- They must have adequate trunk/pelvic dissociation (separation).
- They must have adequate body awareness & sensation to be able to know where they are positioning their feet on the line.
- They must have adequate core/pelvis & lower extremity strength.
- They must have adequate vision to appropriately judge depth & distance.
For the sake of this example, let’s say that this student has all of the necessary prerequisites of vision, body awareness, trunk/pelvic dissociation, core/pelvis & lower extremity strength, and is able to take alternating/reciprocal steps. They just lack the balance component.
In development, before dynamic movement such as walking heel to toe (tandemly) on a line can emerge, we must first develop the stability to maintain certain static positions, such as single leg stance (standing on one leg) & tandem stance (standing heel to toe). Thus, before directly practicing walking on a line I may have the child practice standing on one leg or standing tandemly. As this improves, we would begin to directly practice the skill of walking on a line. There are several awesome The Sensory Path™ products such as the Tight Rope Balance Line Sensory Path™ Element, the Alien Walk Loopy Line Sensory Path™ Element, and the X Marks the Spot Infinity Loop Sensory Path™.
The Tight Rope Balance Line Sensory Path™ Element is perfect for those kids beginning to work on this skill as the lines are straighter. The less linear a line is (i.e. serpentine, curvy, loopy) the more challenging it is to walk on it, especially tandemly. As a child progresses in their ability to ambulate (walk) on a line they will ultimately improve in their ability to ambulate tandemly on a line while changing directions.
These specific products as well as others including this skill provide a perfect non-slip visual cue for foot placement. These products provide fun, colorful themes that engage students while facilitating reciprocal/alternating steps, trunk/pelvic dissociation, body awareness, depth perception/distance, core/pelvic strength and obviously… balance! Furthermore, these products provide differing levels of difficulty incorporating curves, turns, and loops which mimic a students daily routine of transitioning between classes negotiating straight-aways, turns, and curves while walking in line with their classmates.
Check out The Sensory Path’s™ website for their Tight Rope Balance Line Sensory Path™ Element, the Alien Walk Loopy Line Sensory Path™ Element, the X Marks the Spot Infinity Loop Sensory Path™, and many other incredible products that help facilitate & develop balance skills. Also check back for the next few weeks for more ideas of how to utilize & incorporate The Sensory Path’s™ products into treatment sessions or gross motor activities.
See y’all next week!
Catherine C. Skelton, PT, DPT
Pediatric Physical Therapist