This study compared the heart rate responses of two profoundly retarded, multiply handicapped children during the performance of closed-skill fine motor activities and open-skill gross motor activities. The fine motor skills were typical classroom activities, and the gross motor skills were a part of each child’s special physical education programming. Heart rates were recorded for 20-sec intervals from the onset of the performance of each skill until the task objective was obtained. Based upon the results of this study, we concluded that the closed-skill fine motor classroom activities induce physiological stress at levels never before suspected. It is suggested that the dramatic heart rate responses may result from a hyposensitive condition of the spindle afferents, the gamma efferents, and the kinesthetic joint receptors, or from a breakdown in the retrieval of the stored motor program resulting in inappropriate spatial and temporal summation. As a result of the heart rate responses, it is suggested that classroom learning programs may need to be redesigned to accommodate for fatigue in this type of child.
Request reprints from Dr. Alexander W. McNeill, Department of HPER, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT 59717.