Fine motor skills

The term fine motor skills is describe the intricate and detailed movements of the hand needed to manipulate, control and use objects, produce legible, neat handwriting and dress independently. A child with poor fine motor skills will often be the slowest to get changed, need the most help at school in regards to handwriting and cutting and find everyday tasks hard, or take longer than expected to complete tasks involving small movements.

An occupational therapist would be able to identify exactly which component of fine motor skills your child is most struggling with and provide effective treatment aimed at improving fine motor skills and therefore increased function in relation to a range of activities.

Some examples of how fine motor skills can affect a child’s life at home and in school are:

  • Difficulty tying shoelaces
  • Unable to do up buttons/zips
  • Scribbly drawing
  • Poor handwriting
  • Takes a long time to pick up small objects
  • Cannot/finds it very hard to manipulate objects in hand
  • Difficulty using both hands at the same time
  • Difficulty cutting
  • Messy work

To produce accurate and controlled fine movements, your child needs to have developed enough strength in the small muscles in the hand to manipulate objects, be able to see, sense, feel and interpret how the object in front of them is used correctly and be able to control the hands with precision when steadying, manipulating and gripping objects. If any of these key components of fine motor skills are missing, it is likely that your child will struggle to produce fluid small movements and often struggle in other movement related areas (such as sport or P.E.).

Deficits in fine motor skills may co-occur with the following disorders:

  • Acquired brain injury
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Developmental Co-ordination Disorder
  • Developmental Delay
  • Down’s Syndrome
  • Hydrocephalus (child)
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Muscular Dystrophy
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Sensory Processing Disorder
  • Stroke
  • Spina Bifida
  • Specific Learning Disorders

How can Occupational Therapy help?

Occupational therapy is a profession in which the therapist uses activities to promote the skills needed to function in everyday activities. Occupational therapists are trained in analysing and improving many aspects needed for a productive childhood, such as movement, concentration attention, confidence and fine motor skills. By linking the underlying components of fine motor skills to activities that children complete daily (in school and at home) such as cutting, writing, drawing, painting, dressing and playing board games, fine motor skills will subsequently improve.

If you think that your child is having difficulty with their fine motor skills, which is often evident through being unable to tie shoelaces, do and undo buttons and poor handwriting, then an occupational therapist at Psych Connect will be able to help.