Understanding Gross Motor Skills

Understanding Gross Motor Skills | District Speech & Language Therapy | Washington D.C. & Arlington VA

Gross motor skills is the general umbrella term for any movement that involves the large muscles of our body.

Gross motor skills milestones are general milestones that are important markers of childhood development.

These milestones begin as young as 2 months of age.

On the chance your child is dealing with a developmental delay, physical therapy for babies and pediatric speech therapy can be two very important resources that help your child progress to where they need to be.

Sometimes, a collaborative approach is warranted with a physical therapist and a speech therapist.

At District Speech, we operate collaboratively to ensure your child gets the support they need to overcome their challenges.

Now, let’s find out more.

What Are Gross Motor Skills?

Gross motor skills are physical abilities that allow us to do things which involve the large muscles of our torso, arms, and legs.

Typically, they involve whole-body movements and are required for any type of physical activity like jogging or raking the leaves.

Gross motor skills often come naturally to most people, but they are more complex when you dive into their mechanics.

This is because they involve the coordination of your muscles and your neurological system.

Gross motor skills also impact other abilities including:

  • Balance
  • Coordination
  • Physical strength
  • Body awareness
  • Reaction time

How Do Gross Motor Skills Develop?

Gross motor skills begin their development in infancy and continue throughout childhood.

While all children develop at their own pace, there are different milestones that are typically reached around certain ages.

These are called gross motor skills milestones.

Gross Motor Skills Milestones

Gross motor skills milestones are general abilities that are reached at certain ages throughout your child’s development.

For example, around age 3 children are typically able to jump with two feet.

Let’s dive into the preliminary milestones after your child is born.

By 2 Months

At 2 months, your child should be able to push up while on their stomach and make deliberate movements with their arms and legs.

By 4 Months

At 4 months, your child should be able to hold their head upright, bear weight on their legs with their feet flat on the floor, and push up from their stomach to their elbows.

By 6 Months

At 6 months, your child should be able to sit without any support, rock on their hands and knees, roll over, and move objects from one hand to the other.

By 9 Months

At 9 months, your child should be able to creep, crawl, scoot, and pull themselves to a standing position.

They should also be able to point at things, reach and grab a toy, and start picking up small pieces of food.

By 1 Year

By the 1 year mark, your child should be able to drink from a baby cup, shake and throw objects, stand with support, and take a few steps while holding on to a support.

This is the point where you’ll likely begin more actively teaching your baby to walk.

By 18 Months to 2 Years

Between 18 months and 2 years, your child should be able to walk forward and backwards, run, eat with a utensil, hold a marker, throw a ball, and walk up and down stairs while holding a supporting hand or railing.

Conditions Associated With Gross Motor Skills in Children | District Speech & Language Therapy | Washington D.C. & Arlington VA

Conditions Associated With Gross Motor Skills

Poor gross motor skills can impact your child in all aspects of their lives.

It can make school and home tasks more challenging, which can also affect their self-esteem.

Poor gross motor skills are sometimes associated with particular developmental conditions and can be caused as a result of them.

Let’s find out more about which conditions can impact your gross motor skills.

1. Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism spectrum disorder is a condition often associated with gross motor skills difficulty.

This can manifest in a variety of ways including:

  • Atypical gait
  • Fine motor skill difficulties like hand writing
  • Difficulty coordinating movements between the right and left side
  • Difficulty maintaining their posture or balance

It’s worth mentioning that this is distinct from the repetitive behaviors that are often seen as one of the main symptoms of autism.

2. Learning Disabilities

Learning disabilities are defined as a group of similar disorders of presumed neurological origin which manifest differently during the life span of the individual.

These disorders tend to be developmental in nature and often include gross motor skills delays among other potential delays.

Speech therapy for learning disabilities can help.

3. Down Syndrome

Down syndrome is a congenital disorder which occurs there is an extra copy of chromosome 21 made during chromosomal development.

Individuals with Down syndrome commonly have generalized low muscle tone, which occurs when the length of the resting muscle is longer than normal and causes the muscle to feel floppy and weak.

Generalized low muscle tone can cause poor gross motor skills.

This is one of the primary focuses of pediatric physical therapy treatments for Down syndrome


ADD/ADHD frequently occur with autism and share many behavioral characteristics.

In the past, there was a distinction between these two diagnoses.

The main diagnostic criteria difference between them was that ADD and ADHD also include inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity while autism is focused on social impairments and repetitive behaviors.

Today, though, they’re considered the same disorder.

ADD and ADHD, like autism, can involve gross motor skills challenges.

How Can A Speech Therapist Help?

A speech therapist can help your child with their gross motor skills at any age that gross motor skills difficulties present.

Your speech therapist will examine risk factors, conduct systematic observations, assess their developmental status and create a varied learning plan to provide therapy based on their assessment data.

In addition, your speech therapist will link their therapy activities to your family activities and school curriculum so that your child continues to develop beyond each session.

The goal is functional progress that can continue across every aspect of your child’s life.

How Can A Physical Therapist Help?

Like your speech therapist, your physical therapist will first evaluate your child to determine the extent of their strengths and weaknesses according to the general milestones described above.

Then, they will give detailed instructions on building motor skills in order to reach an established goal.

This can include physically guiding your child’s movements, providing cues to teach new directions of movement, and experimenting with different types of supports to facilitate learning new movements.

Like your speech therapist, your physical therapist will connect these activities to their home and school life in order to maximize their potential for progress.

Book Your Appointment With District Speech Today

As you can see, there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes of gross motor skills.

They can be tricky to understand and can be helped by both speech therapists and physical therapists.

At District Speech, we have accomplished physical therapists and speech therapists that can help your child at any age develop their gross motor skills.

To get started, book an appointment with District Speech today.

District Speech and Language Therapy
1300 I St NW, #400E,
Washington, DC 20005

- https://g.page/districtspeech

District Speech and Language Therapy specializes in speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy solutions, for both children and adults, in the Washington D.C and the Arlington Virginia areas.