Motor Performance of Healthy Children
Compared to Children with Developmental Disabilities
1Saarland University, Sports Sciences Institute, Germany
2RPTU Kaiserslautern-Landau, Campus Landau, Institute for Sports Sciences, Germany
Submission: April 07, 2023; Published: May 05, 2023
*Corresponding author: Andrea Dincher, Special Tasks Teacher, Saarland University, Germany, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
How to cite this article: Dincher A.Motor Performance of Healthy Children Compared to Children with Developmental Disabilities. Glob J Intellect Dev Disabil. 2023; 11(4): 555820. DOI:10.19080/GJIDD.2023.11.555820
Purpose: Children with developmental disabilities show motor deficits. Previous studies are based only on norm values without a real control group. The present study aims to fill this gap.
Materials and methods: 276 children participated in the study. MOBAK 1-4 was conducted with one subsample and DMT 6-18 with the other. Raw or Z-scores of the individual test items and the overall percentile rank are evaluated. An ANOVA was calculated for group comparison.
Results: There is a significant difference in percentile rank between healthy and disabled children and between athletes and non-athletes. For the individual test tasks, significant differences between the groups are found with few exceptions.
Conclusions: The differences can be attributed to both developmental disability and club affiliation. Whether perhaps the concept of school (e.g., school in motion, sports school) can have an influence should be examined in further study, since over the school all children can be reached.
Keywords: Children; Motor Development; Developmental Coordination Disorder; Motor Abilities; Basic Motor Competencies
Children with developmental disabilities show deficits in motor development compared to healthy peers. In this context, it was found several years ago that motor performance, measured by fundamental motor skills, is lower in children with autism, ADHD, learning disabilities, and Down syndrome [1-4] compared to healthy children. However, in these studies, the population studied in each case was compared with existing normal values or the disorders were compared with each other. In some cases, there was no healthy control group, and the factor of whether a child participates in a sports club was also not recorded. One study  was able to show here, for example, that children with a developmental disorder whose parents had a positive parental behavior one standard deviation higher than the average showed a statistically significant linear increase in the standard values for motor skills with age. Thus, it can be assumed that the children of these parents may be more likely to be enrolled in a sports club than the children of parents who had lower scores.
Therefore, the aim of the study is to determine differences in motor skills between children with and without developmental disabilities and whether sports club membership has an influence on this.
A total of 276 children (164 boys and 112 girls) from four randomized selected German primary schools, participated in the study. Table 1 below provides a comparative overview of the characteristics of the total sample (Table 1).
There are significant differences between healthy and disabled children with regard to age, weight, BMI and sports lessons in the club.
In total, nine children suffer from ADHD, five others have two additional comorbidities (social disorder, dyslexia). Four children have a social conspicuity, two children asthma. Other conditions
present in the sample include fetal alcohol syndrome, Prader-Willi
syndrome, general developmental delay, cerebral palsy, muscular
dystrophy, and others.
a) DMT 6-18: German motor test for children and
adolescents aged six to 18. The test is based on the concept of
motor abilities and consists of the tasks 20-meter sprint (speed),
side-to-side jumping and balancing (coordination), stand & reach
(flexibility), sit-ups, push-ups, and standing long jump (strength),
and 6-minute run (endurance). The raw scores are converted to
age- and sex-normalized Z-scores so that the scores from all tasks
can be combined into an overall Z-score. Here, a Z-score of < 91.67
is rated as strongly below average, a score between 93 and 97.5
as below average, between 98 and 102.5 as average, between 103
and 108.33 as above average, and a score > 108.33 as strongly
above average . The Z-scores of the individual tasks, the total
Z-score and the total percentile rank are evaluated.
b) MOBAK 1-4: Basic motor competencies for children in
grades 1 to 4. The test consists of the tasks throwing, catching,
bouncing, dribbling (moving objects) and rolling, balancing,
jumping, running (moving oneself). One point is awarded per
valid attempt (max. two per task) with the exception of throwing
and catching. Here the raw scores from six attempts are converted
into points (max. two per task). All point values are added up to a
total score. In addition, an age- and gender-normalized percentile
rank can be determined using this score . The scores of the
individual tasks, the total score, and the total percentile rank are
After consent from the regional ministry of education and
ethics committee, four schools were randomly selected. After
consent from the schools‘ heads and the children’s parents, dates
for the tests were arranged. These all took place during school
hours (8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.) in the gymnasium of the respective
school. The tests were conducted by four people (three students
of sports science and the author). Four children were assigned to
each tester. The test tasks were then performed in station mode.
Approximately 30 to 40 minutes were required per such test run.
Mean values and standard deviations of the results of the
individual test tasks (Z-scores for DMT 6-18 or point values for
MOBAK 1-4) of the healthy and sick children are presented and
compared using a t-test. So that the different test results can also
be compared with each other, the overall percentile rank is used
for this purpose. The statistical program SPSS version 29 is used
for this purpose. The significance level is set at p < .05.
The following Table 2 gives a comparative overview of the
results of the healthy and disabled children in DMT 6-18 and
MOBAK 1-4 in the form of the total percentile rank.
There is a highly significant difference between the groups.
The healthy children achieve an overall rank about 25 percentage
points higher than the disabled children. Table 3 below shows the
results of the tasks in MOBAK 1-4. With the exception of bouncing,
all tasks in MOBAK 1-4 show significant differences between
healthy and disabled children. Table 4 below shows the results of
the tasks in DMT 6-18.
With the exception of the sprint, stand & reach, and standing
long jump tasks, significant differences are found between healthy
and disabled children.
The aim of the study was to find out differences in motor
performance between healthy children and children with
In the first analysis of the total percentile of the complete
sample, it is very clear that the healthy children are about 20
percentage points above the 50th percentile, while the children
with a developmental disability are just below the 50th percentile.
It can be clearly seen that the children who train in a sports club
achieve a higher percentile rank. The healthy children who are not
members of the club achieve a similar percentile rank as the sick
children who train in the club. The healthy children who train in
the club perform best; the disabled children who are not in the
club perform worst.
If we now look at the results in the individual tests or the
individual test items, we see the following:
In MOBAK 1-4, the healthy children managed at least one valid
attempt on average in all tasks except one, i.e., scored at least one
point, whereby in throwing and catching, three to four successful attempts correspond to one point, and five to six successful attempts correspond to two points . The children with
developmental disabilities only succeed in bouncing, dribbling,
rolling, and running. This clearly shows that the children with
developmental disabilities do not have the necessary basic
competencies to a sufficient degree to participate in movement,
play, and sports . The healthy children are in the above-average
range for the tasks of the DMT 6-18 with the exception of the
6-minute run (just below average), the jumping to and from the
side and the push-ups are to be rated as strongly above average
according to Bös et al. . The children with developmental
disabilities perform below average in balancing and strongly
below average in the 6-minute run.
Overall, all children in the sample show below-average
The differences between the healthy and disabled children are
possibly due to the limitations of the developmental disorder, but
on the other hand also due to the significant differences between
the studied groups in age, weight, BMI and sports participation.
The children with developmental disability are heavier and
have higher BMI. This may be due to the fact that children with
disabilities have poorer sedentary behavior and lower activity
levels compared to healthy peers [9,10]. They also participate
in about one hour less of club sports per week than the healthy
individuals. This could also be due to socialization by parents or
their behavior . While mastery of some fundamental movement
skills (e.g., walking, running) appears to develop naturally, other
skills (e.g., the overhand throw, the push-off) are more likely to be
learned through increased instruction, skill-specific feedback, and
practice . Children who do not receive adequate instruction
or practice opportunities in these areas are likely to experience
developmental delays in the acquisition of fundamental movement
The present study was designed to reveal differences in motor
performance between healthy and disabled children. Significant
differences were found throughout in favor of healthy children.
This can be explained not only by the developmental disorder
itself, but also by support measures in the form of sports activities
in clubs. Further studies should examine which programs in
schools, such as “school in motion” or “sports school” or “sport
promotion lessons” have an effect on the motor performance of
the children. Support measures that are carried out within the
instructional time at school, in addition to the mandatory physical
education classes, would reach all children at this point. Thus, not
only the disabled children would get the opportunity to reduce