Motor planning is the ability to assess a motor activity, plan and organize how to carry out that motor activity, and finally implement motor skills to achieve that motor activity.
I became aware of the term motor planning at a recent physical therapy session where the therapist asked me to complete a simple task of walking up a step then placing an object on the adjacent window sill. I told her how I planned to do each step out loud. She commented this was good motor planning. It was then I realized what a big part of life this is.
Most of us don’t think about motor planning. We take it for granted because it’s automatic. I have been gifted with a disability which makes me appreciate every move I make.
The left half of my body became paralyzed when I had a stroke at 35. I slowly had to re-learn how to move. My body has never fully cooperated in the 20 years since the stroke.
This forces me to engineer every movement and activity of daily living. From getting clothes on and off, to getting groceries into the house from the car, I have to mentally map out each move considering the limitations of my body.
My fine motor skills in my left hand are nearly nonexistent. My arm and leg are weak. My foot is paralyzed. My balance is poor. I carry a cane in my functioning right hand so I can’t always use it when I need it.
I spend every waking minute planning how to get by without the help of my left hand. This often means I rest my cane somewhere so I can carry something with my right hand. I walk ok without the cane for short distances. When I finish what I needed my right hand for, I regularly forget where I left my cane.
Ingenuity is my friend. I don’t usually realize how glaring it is when people watch me that I effectively ignore my left hand.
For instance, a teller at the drive through lane at the bank once asked what was wrong with my left hand since I reach across to the transaction drawer with my right. He was shocked and embarrassed when I told him I’d had a stroke.
It is exhausting to have to put so much thought and effort into getting through the day. Things that were once simple and automatic have become inordinately complicated.
Having physical limitations doesn’t seem as bad to me as having cognitive deficits would. I am grateful for the ability to assess a motor activity, plan and organize how to carry out that motor activity and figure out a way to implement it even if it isn’t elegant.
Having a minor disability has given me an appreciation for what totally disabled people have to deal with; and I take much less for granted.
I hope my story gives you a sense of gratitude for the automatic ease with which your body functions.