Children in physical education classes, special education classes, and rehabilitation programs have extremely varied abilities and deficits in motor tasks. Among the problems faced by the teachers, therapists, and other specialists is the identification of the underlying mechanisms that produce the problems observed in these children. In addition, teachers and others must design an appropriate intervention strategy. This paper discusses two approaches being used to study the underlying systems and computations that contribute to the control and regulation of movement. The systems approach focuses on the problems that children with specific pathologies have in regulating their balance and equilibrium. The computational or modular approach addresses the motor deficits observed in certain children in terms of three possible computational units: timing, force production, and motor sequencing. These approaches may provide additional techniques for identifying the pathology underlying the behavioral deficits of children with motor impairment. Also, with these tools it may be possible to design alternative programs that will address the causes as well as the effects of the deficits observed in certain groups of children.
The authors are with the Department of Exercise and Movement Science at the University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403-1240, and also at the Institute of Neuroscience at Oregon.