Updated assessment program gauges children's developmental and motor skills

Testing a child's ability to grasp an object, to react to a sound or even to kick a ball is the main purpose for the newly published second edition of the Peabody Developmental Motor Scales and Activity Program, written by Tennessee Tech University Professor Rhonda Folio.

Folio, professor of physical education and special education (and who also helps coach the university's golf team), at TTU, co-wrote the developmental test and curriculum (published by Pro-Ed, 2000) with colleague Rebecca Fewell of the University of Miami. The test and curriculum are ideal for preschool teachers, occupational and physical therapists, early intervention specialists, psychologists and adapted physical education teachers who interact and teach children with special needs.

"This is a very valid and reliable assessment that measures gross and fine motor skills of children from birth to six years of age," Folio explained. "It can be used like a good ruler."

At-risk and "diverse" learners are those who have either emotional or physical disabilities which make it more challenging for them to learn. They comprise approximately 19 percent of the school-aged population in the U.S. and it is with resources such as the PDMS-2 that enables professionals to teach these special needs learners. According to Pro-Ed, the publisher of the PDMS-2, more than 3,500 copies of the kit have been sold in the past several months, mainly to occupational and physical therapists.

There are three main goals of the Peabody Developmental Motor Scales assessment which is completed through "subtests" measuring how well a child copies shapes on a piece of paper or even hops across the floor, Folio explained.

"The PDMS-2 is invaluable to us," said Filomena Walker, director of the Tennessee Early Intervention System based on the campus of TTU. TEIS is a free statewide service for children with developmental delays and disabilities from birth to three and their families.

"We use the subtests every day to test the motor skills of children to find out if they do qualify for early intervention," she said.

Through a large, illustrated chart included in the PDMS-2, examiners can easily mark and watch and chart a child's progress in such areas as kicking and throwing, gripping an object and also eye-hand coordination skills. These skills are measured through such activities as building with blocks and reaching and grasping for an object.

One goal is to determine a child's eligibility for early intervention resources, as Walker stated, such as for special education classes in school. By scoring within a standard range on the PDMS-2 and on its tests, children may be eligible for special state and federal resources to help them in their development.

Secondly the assessment can be used as a research tool and to test how motor skills are affected in a specific program or treatment. For example, the assessment can gauge how a swimming program affects a child learning to walk.

And, third, the PDMS-2 can be used to evaluate a child's progress Ð such as for a child undergoing physical therapy or early intervention adapted physical education Ð to ensure the proper motor skills program is being used to best benefit the child.

The first edition of the PDMS, published in 1983, originated from the dissertation Folio wrote while earning her doctorate in physical education and special education at George Peabody College at Vanderbilt University in 1975.

"We have up-to-date norms and content that is unbiased toward race and gender. A lot of hard work has been put into PDMS-2 to ensure that it is a very valid and reliable assessment," said Folio.

For more information about PDMS-2, visit the website www.proedinc.com.