THE power of a child’s imagination is being tested by Notre Dame PhD student Ranila Bhoyroo.
As part of a study into the motor skills of boys aged 8 to 11 years old, Bhoyroo sets her subjects a series of tasks to undertake in real life and in their imagination, which helps test their neurological pathways.
The aim is to gain a better understanding of developmental coordination disorder (DCD), a common but little understood problem, ND health institute senior researcher Beth Hands says.
Estimates of the number of sufferers vary from 5 to 16 per cent of the population, and there is evidence it continues into adulthood, says Prof Hands.
“People are saying I was a clumsy child, I couldn’t play sport.”
For most people the brain sends a command to the muscles to complete an action, which is followed a “double message” to confirm a successful completion.
Some believe there’s a breakdown in this “checking” in DCD children – which is where “mental rehearsal” comes in, says Prof Hands.
“[You] think about doing it, working it through and now you do it.
“Ranila is looking at [whether] it’s a breakdown in one or other of the pathways or both: Nobody else is looking at that.”
Being bad at sport has health impacts and can lead to social isolation, with uncoordinated kids sidelined at playtime.
“Across the board it’s a condition that has big impacts on life skills,” says Prof Hands.
“But it’s also not widely recognised, the GP won’t pick up on a clumsy child.”
Along with an increased risk of obesity, researchers at Princess Margaret Hospital found kids with DCD have lower bone density: “[With] a higher risk of osteoporosis,” Prof Hands says.
The university is looking for 40 boys to take part in the program: “[We] are focussing on boys so you don’t get gender bias,” Prof Hands says.
For more information or to take part email firstname.lastname@example.org call Ranila on 0426 976 713.
by JENNY D’ANGER