Finding an Environment that Helps Motor DevelopmentA new questionnaire, designed by researchers at the University of Texas Arlington (UT Arlington), can help parents, caregivers, and doctors assess an infant’s home environment. The questionnaire, called the Affordances in the Home Environment for Motor Development-Infant Scale (AHEMD-IS) can identify whether objects in the home, known as affordances, support multiple levels of motor skill development. Motor skills are critical because they mediate cognitive, social, and emotional development. The questionnaire can help families appropriately enrich their infant’s environment.

The AHEMD-IS questionnaire is for caregivers of infants aged 3 to 18 months. The questions assess the types of toys, furniture, and other home affordances available to infants developing their fine and gross motor skills. The questionnaire focuses on four categories: physical space in the home, variety of stimulation, gross-motor toys, and fine-motor toys. It addresses topics like whether there is enough space for a child to play and move freely and whether the home has a special place from which the child can select toys for play.

To assess the effectiveness of the AHEMD-IS questionnaire, the researchers surveyed the parents of more than 400 infants over five years in three Brazilian states. Based on the surveys, expert opinion, and other assessments, they found the AHEMD-IS reliable and valid for evaluating the home environment for infant development.

“Parents, doctors or other infant caregivers must ask ‘What does a toy or a coffee table do?’ Well, depending on the space between the couch and the coffee table, it could be the first distance that the child wants to cross. If a toy is cranked and pops up, the child might want to go grab it, which could lead the child to walking. But the challenge is the thing that stimulates that child to begin walking,” stated Priscila Caçola, assistant professor of kinesiology in the UT Arlington College of Nursing and Health Innovation, who developed the AHEMD-IS questionnaire.

This research is published in the journal Physical Therapy.

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