Chinese Preschoolers to Benefit from Folio's Motor Skills Test

Chinese preschool children will have a better chance of overcoming delayed motor skills development now that the standard U.S. test, created by a Tennessee Tech University professor, has been translated into Chinese.

The Chinese government will soon begin using the Peabody Developmental Motor Scales, developed by Rhonda Folio, to assess the norms of Chinese children. The PDMS can be used to test a child's reflexes, stationary balance, locomotion, object manipulation, grasping and other gross and fine motor skills. The goal is to intervene early and provide help to children ages birth through 6 years old who are behind the norm.

"In the early '70s, U.S. occupational and physical therapists began a push to assess children's motor skills in order to minimize the impact any delays would have later in life," said Folio, TTU professor of Exercise Science, Physical Education and Wellness.

"China is now joining the game; they are where we were in the late '70s as far as knowledge and early assessment," she explained.

The Peking University Medical Press of Beijing, one of the oldest and most important higher education institutions in China, has translated the text for the PDMS. Folio says having "the Harvard of China" translate the text for the Chinese government was quite an honor. Xiuchang Ann Huang, a Chinese student who just graduated with a doctorate in exceptional learning, says she is encouraged that her country is adopting the standardize test.

"With China's economic growth, there is the opportunity to increase services for young children, and the PDMS will fill the void that exists," said Huang. "Professors and researchers are looking at children's early stages of development, but it would be very difficult to develop a diagnostic tool as effective as this one.

"For the first time, this will allow therapists to determine who will benefit most from early intervention by establishing a norm," Huang said.

The PDMS comes packaged in a colorful box that contains illustrated text and equipment that may be hard to find to make certain assessments. It provides instruction for a quick computerized scoring program, and it suggests how to create individual treatment programs for remediation. Examples of activities in the subtest include testing children's abilities to crawl, walk, run, hop, and jump forward. Seventy-two items measure a child's ability to use his or her visual-perceptual skills to perform complex eye-hand coordination tasks, such as reaching and grasping for an object, building with blocks and copying designs.

Folio released the first version in 1983; an updated version followed in 2000. Currently, she is working on a facelift for a third version that will provide more culturally appropriate exercises.

"Over time, normal basic motor skills in children haven't changed, but cultural items have," explained Folio. "Now children, even at this young age, use key boards, even cell phones. We are looking to incorporate tests for those types of fine motor skills into the new version.

"There is not much difference in fine motor skills in preschool across cultures," said Folio. "We may look into adding tests related to other cultures, such as adding a test that would simulate a Chinese child's use of chopsticks, since that is so important in their motor skills development."

Folio anticipates a possible DVD training program, or even a trip to China, to enhance teaching how to use the PDMS in China. She says other countries are seeing the value the United States, and now China, is seeing in how the test can be used to determine who will benefit most from early intervention and how to document progress.

"There's talk of a Spanish version being developed," said Folio. "A group from Columbia, South America, has asked us to offer a translation."

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