CSUN Offers Unique Motor Skills Program for Children

Children enrolled in the Sensory Motor Program

Several of the children enrolled in the Sensory Motor Program play a game called, “keep out of reach” with some assistance from CSUN students. The children pictured from left to right are: Dean Genderlink, Nicolas Noblitt and Carter Genderlink. Photo by Victor Kamont.

Before enrolling in California State University, Northridge’s Sensory Motor Program, Doris Samayoa ’09 (Child and Adolescent Development) had never seen her twin boys playing soccer or any other sports together.

Samayoa said most programs separate the 9-year-old twins because of their special needs. Her son, Zael, has cerebral palsy and his brother, Gael, is a typical child but “shy.”

“Usually, I’ll take one to practice and the other has to sit and watch,” Samayoa said. “This program has brought them together and helped build their self-esteem.”

The two-year-old Sensory Motor Program is offered by the Department of Kinesiology for five weeks in the summer to children ages 4 to 12. The program, which is free to the community, works on developing the children’s motor skills through physical activities, including jumping, running and handling a ball. The class is a mix of children with typical skills and those with disabilities, including autism, Down syndrome and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Gael Samayoa

Gael Samayoa plays on a scooter that assists with balance. Photo by Victor Kamont

CSUN’s program is one of the few of its kind open to typical children and those with disabilities.

“Motor development is important for students with or without disabilities,” said kinesiology professor Teri Todd, director of the program. “This has been a wonderful opportunity to bring children together who have different skill levels and abilities in a positive, supportive environment.”

Twice a week for 50 minutes, the participants receive one-on-one attention from CSUN undergraduate students enrolled in a kinesiology motor behavior principles class. The students with more severe disabilities work with adapted physical activity kinesiology graduate students who volunteer their time. One of the first things the CSUN students do is assess the children’s skill level in the areas of local motor, object control and body awareness, and rhythm and dance. Instead of having the children simply run, jump or throw a ball, the CSUN students try to make the exercises fun by incorporating them in activities and games like soccer and basketball.

“All the kids are equalized,” said Mark Genderlink ’92 (Sociology), M.A. ’05 (Educational Technology), who has two children enrolled in the program. His 7-year-old son, Carter, has some “social relations” problems, Genderlink said, and his 9-year-old son, Dean, has ADHD.

“They get one-on-one attention and gain some confidence,” Genderlink said.