How to Assess the Motor Skills of Children - Using the Peabody Developmental Motor Scale

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After more than ten years of extensive research, a second edition known as the PDMS-2 finally replaced the first edition of the Peabody Developmental Motor Scale. The authors, M. Rhonda Folio and Rebecca R. Fewell, claim that the new and updated version provides better and more in-depth assessment of the gross and fine motor skills of preschool-age children. The PDMS-2, of course, is just one of the most commonly-used assessments for measuring the motor skills of toddlers. However, for children with special needs, the Peabody Development Motor Scale is one of the most reliable testing instruments used by many professionals, such as therapists, psychologists, and diagnosticians.

Purpose of the Test

The main purpose of the Peabody Developmental Motor Scale is to test the motor skills of children. Gross motor skills involve using large muscles such as in bending, balancing, crawling, walking, and jumping. Fine motor skills, on the other hand, involve using smaller muscles, particularly the muscles in the hand. A child, at a specific age, is expected to display proficiency at certain motor skills.

With the PDMS-2, most dysfunctions of motor skills will be identified. And using the results of the PDMS-2, the special education teacher, parents, and other professionals of the IEP team can develop a more responsive learning and remediation program for the child with special needs. Would you want your child to take this assessment test? The next part describes how the test will be administered.

Administration of the Test

This assessment test is composed of six sub-tests that include special instructions on how each is administered to the preschool-age child. To keep the results of the test reliable and precise, the actual instructions on how the test will be carried out are only given to the test administrators and psychologists. This will prevent the parents from “preparing” their child to pass the test. But the sub-tests are given below:

  • Reflexes – A reflexive action is a quick and automatic reaction to a particular environmental stimulus. This reaction is measured in this sub-test that is composed of eight items. This sub-test, however, is administered only to children who are 11 months and younger because reflexes have been observed to be extensively integrated within 12 months.
  • Stationary – This sub-test aims to measure the child’s ability to maintain balance or equilibrium. It involves mainly the ability of the preschool-age child to control his or her body. It is composed of 30 items.
  • Locomotion – This sub-test evaluates the child’s ability to move. The movement involves crawling, walking, running, and other similar actions. The sub-test has 89 items.
  • Object Manipulation – In this sub-test, the object that is manipulated is the ball. Since it is developmentally impossible for babies to even hold a ball, this sub-test is administered only to children who are older than 11 months. This 24-item sub-test involves activities such as throwing, catching, and kicking balls.
  • Grasping – This sub-test primarily measures the preschool-age child’s ability to use the muscles of the hand. Made of 26 items, the sub-test progressively determines their ability to grasp objects and to control fingers.
  • Visual-Motor Integration – This sub-test evaluates the child’s eye and hand co-ordination. Aside from controlling muscles, the test determines the level of the child’s visual perception. Some examples of the activities of this 72-item sub-test include building blocks and copying designs.

Limitations of the Test

The Peabody Developmental Motor Scale second edition is limited only to children of preschool age or five years old and younger. Sometimes, it can be used on children who are as old as eight years old, but this assessment tool cannot be used to diagnose motor skill dysfunctions in older children and adults.


The normative sample used to standardize this assessment test was composed of 2,003 individuals coming from 46 states. Subsequent researches, such as those of Wang, Liao, and Hsieh, demonstrated the reliability and responsiveness of the test for children with special needs. The results of this test are interpreted to produce three composites -

  1. Gross Motor Quotient.
  2. Fine Motor Quotient.
  3. Total Motor Quotient.

This post is part of the series: Assessment Tests

This is a series of articles about assessment tests

  1. Standardized Tests as a Quality Benchmark for Student Appraisal
  2. Assessment Instruments Commonly Used in Special Education
  3. Assessing Motor Skills in Early Childhood - Using the PDMS
  4. Using the Kaufman Assessment Battery 2nd Edition for Children
  5. The Validity of the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale
  6. The Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale and Special Needs Students
  7. Using the Child Behavior Checklist