The influence of a 12-week (24, 45-min motor sessions) motor skill intervention on fundamental motor skill (EMS) development of disadvantaged preschoolers was examined. Pre-and postintervention measures of the object control (OC) and locomotor subscales of the Test of Cross Motor Development were obtained for both groups. Prior to the intervention, developmental delays in FMS were reported. Two separate 2 x 2 (Group x Pre-Postintervention) analyses of variance with repeated measures yielded a significant Group x Pre-Postintervention interaction for locomotor, F(1, 57) = 134.23, p = .000, [h.sup.2] = .70, and OC, F(1, 57) = 161.55, p = .000, [h.sup.2] = .74) skills. Compared to the Control group, the motor skill intervention group revealed significantly higher locomotor and OC scores following the intervention than prior to the intervention.
Key words: early childhood, locomotor, motor skill instruction, object control
Fundamental motor skills (FMS) are commonly considered the building blocks to more advanced movement skills and specific sport skills (Gabbard, 2000; Haywood & Getchell, 2001; Payne & Isaacs, 2002; Seefeldt, 1980) and are included in the national content standards in physical education (National Association for Sport and Physical Education, 1995). In his model of the progression of motor skill proficiency, Seefeldt (1980) proposed that children must learn a certain level of competency in FMS if they are to break through a hypothetical "proficiency barrier" and successfully engage in sport specific skills later in life. Seefeldt suggested that early childhood was the time to best develop FMS. Motor development textbooks (Gabbard, 2000; Haywood & Getchell, 2001; Payne & Isaacs, 2002) support this view, indicating the importance of early childhood for motor skill development. However, these skills do not naturally "emerge" during early childhood, rather, they result from many factors influencing the child's moto r skill development (Newell, 1984, 1986).
Newell (1984, 1986) suggested that motor skill development is based on the interaction between constraints from the task, the organism, and the environment. That is, FMS emerge within a dynamic system consisting of a specific task, performed by a learner with given characteristics, in a particular environment. In this dynamic systems theory perspective, factors (subsystems) within the organism (the learner) will influence motor skill development. For example, motivation, strength, and neurological development, are a few of these many factors. In addition, environmental considerations, such as the equipment used, previous experience, and instruction, may influence motor development. These two factors (organism and environment) are specific to the task being asked of the performer. Given this dynamic view of motor skill development, it may be hypothesized that certain populations of children will be influenced by constraints that retard the development of EMS in early childhood. Preschool children who are iden tified as disadvantaged may be one such group, as they present both environmental and biological (organismic) risk factors in the identification of their disadvantaged status.
Federal law protects young children who are disadvantaged. Federal legislation in the form of Public Law 105-117--Part C & H (1997) identifies and provides for disadvantaged individuals at risk of having substantial developmental delays, if early intervention services are not provided. Incorporated within this legislation is the notion that a child exposed to biological (organismic) or environmental influences (risk factors) may demonstrate a greater probability of developmental delay or educational failure. Given the possible influence of the biological (organismic) and environmental risk factors to which disadvantaged young children are exposed, it may be suggested that these young children will demonstrate developmental delays in FMS development.
A number of research studies (Connor-Kuntz & Dummer, 1996; Goodway & Rudisill, 1997; Hamilton, Goodway, & Haubenstricker, 1999) have found that disadvantaged children demonstrated developmental delays in FMS. Goodway and Rudisill (1997) and Hamilton et al. (1999) further suggested that these delays indicated the lack of environmental support in which the children were raised. Given these data, it is important to examine the role of intervention programs in remediating developmental delays with this disadvantaged population, specifically in the motor development area.
The effectiveness of early intervention programs, such as Head Start, in achieving positive educational and social outcomes for disadvantaged children is well documented (Casto & White, 1984; Guralnick, 1991;White & Casto, 1985; Zigler & Muenchow, 1992). White and Casto's (1985) meta-analysis of 162 studies revealed that effect sizes for early intervention programs averaged half a standard deviation. These authors concluded that more organized interventions or those with professional interveners reported greater gains in outcome measures than those with less structure and noncertified interveners. However, despite a substantial body of early intervention literature, limited evidence is available with respect to motor development outcomes for disadvantaged children.
Contemporary literature on the benefits of motor skill interventions for young children is limited (Connor-Kuntz & Dummer, 1996; Halverson & Roberton, 1979; Hamilton, et al., 1999; Kelly, Dagger, & Walkley, 1989; Miller, 1978; Valentini, 1997; Zittel & McCubbin, 1996). Halverson and Roberton (1979) documented the positive influence of instruction on typical young children's throwing performance. Kelly et al. (1989) reported that typical preschool children demonstrated qualitative performance gains in six fundamental motor skills from pretest to posttest as a result of two 5-week instructional units consisting of direct instruction. In contrast, the control group, who engaged in well equipped free play, made no significant gains in motor skill development. A study by Connor-Kuntz and Dummer (1996) found significant pretest-posttest gains in FMS in typical preschool children, Head Start (disadvantaged) preschool children, and preschool children with disabilities, as a result of an 8-week intervention. Despite significant improvements, children in Head Start and Special Education were still below expected standard scores for their age at the posttest. Hamilton et al. (1999) found that prior to a motor intervention, disadvantaged preschool children demonstrated developmental delays in object control skills. Following an 8-week parent-assisted intervention, they found significant pre- to posttest gains in object control skills for the experimental group, as compared to a control group who did not demonstrate significant change in motor performance. Finally, Valentini (1997) found that a 12-week, student-centered instructional program resulted in significant gains in the EMS of developmentally delayed kindergarten children from pre- to postintervention. What was interesting about this study was that the control group did not change from pre- to postintervention, despite the fact both groups had received 30 mm of daily physical education per day throughout the intervention period. In contrast to the above studies, Zitt el & McCubbin (1996) used a single-subject design to examine the influence of an 8-week motor skill intervention on the motor skill acquisition of 4 developmentally delayed preschool children. These authors did not find significant change in motor skills in either the integrated or segregated condition, a finding attributed to limited time to practice and …