Children Who Can’t Catch Lag Behind in Reading, Writing & Maths, Study Claims

Children Who Can’t Catch Lag Behind in Reading, Writing & Maths, Study Claims

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Clumsy children who struggle to catch a ball are less likely to perform well in reading,  writing and maths exams, a study has found.

The research raises the possibility that schools could provide extra support to children who lack hand-eye coordination, psychologists said.

More than 300 children aged between four and 11 took part in various computer tasks for the study, led by researchers at the University of Leeds.

Their co-ordination and interceptive timing was tested by their ability to interact with a moving object. Tasks designed to measure eye-to-hand coordination involved steering, taking aim and tracking objects on a computer screen.

In one task, the children had to hit a moving object with an on-screen bat, which researchers said tapped into a fundamental cognitive ability – how the brain predicts the movement of objects through time and space. Those with better hand-eye coordination tended to have higher academic attainment, the study found.
Those who performed best at the “steering task” in particular were on average nine months ahead of classmates who struggled.

However, while interceptive timing skills tended to be linked to ability in maths, it did not influence reading and writing development.

Mark Mon-Williams, professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Leeds, said: “The results show that eye-to-hand co-ordination and interceptive timing are robust predictors of how well young children will perform at school.

“The current thinking among psychologists is that the neural circuitry used to build up a child’s understanding of their external environment, the way they orientate themselves spatially and understand their world is also used to process numbers and more abstract thinking.

“It also raises the question: should schools be identifying those children who are seen as clumsy or not so well coordinated and giving them extra support?”

The study, published in the peer-review journal Psychological Science, was conducted at Lilycroft Primary School in Bradford, West Yorkshire, which has remodelled its reception, indoor and outdoor areas to include a space where children can develop motor skills and coordination.