Motor skills are skills that require a person to utilize their skeletal muscles effectively. Motor skills and motor control depend upon the proper functioning of the brain, skeleton, joints, and nervous system. Most motor skills are learned in early childhood, although disabilities can affect motor skills development. Motor development is the development of action and coordination of one's limbs, as well as the development of strength, posture control, balance, and perceptual skills.
Motor skills are divided into two parts:
- Gross motor skills include lifting one's head, rolling over, sitting up, balancing, crawling, and walking. Gross motor development usually follows a pattern. Generally large muscles develop before smaller ones. Thus, gross motor development is the foundation for developing skills in other areas (such as fine motor skills). Development also generally moves from top to bottom. The first thing a baby usually learns is to control its head.
- Fine motor skills include the ability to manipulate small objects, transfer objects from hand to hand, and various hand-eye coordination tasks. Fine motor skills may involve the use of very precise motor movement in order to achieve an especially delicate task. Some examples of fine motor skills are using the pincer grasp (thumb and forefinger) to pick up small objects, cutting, coloring and writing, and threading beads. Fine motor development refers to the development of skills involving the smaller muscle groups.
Autistic people tend to have difficulties with motor skills, including balance and coordination. Autistic children may evidence a slight delay in the development of fine motor skills. In some cases, autistic people may have an odd way of walking, and may display compulsive finger, hand, arm or leg movements,  including tics and stims.
Developing Motor Skills
Autistic people should see a doctor or occupational therapist if they are seriously struggling with motor skills. A specialist can help them or their parents come up with a plan to improve their motor skills.
- For fine motor skills, try fun activities such as puzzles, Legos, or Magnetic Mosaics. Grasping and manipulating small pieces help improve motor skills.
- Fine motor skills may be tied into special interest. Writing, sewing, drawing, etc. all involve fine motor skills. Encouraging these passions will aid fine motor skills in a fun and rewarding way.
- Exercise helps develop gross motor skills. Children may benefit from a school sport, or if they don't like sports, plenty of free time at the playground. Autistic people of any age may enjoy hiking, biking, swimming, tennis, etc. alone or with loved ones.
- Parents may find that children prefer exercising in a noncompetitive, low-stress environment. Tossing around a football or setting up a backyard volleyball net with a parent may be more enjoyable than organized sports or a gym (for both child and parent).
- Parental participation can help make new activities enjoyable. For example, parents could help children solve a new puzzle, or offer to create a paper storybook together.
- Occupational therapy can help improve motor skills.
- Autistic bloggers, and bloggers who have autistic children, sometimes write about fun motor skills and sensory activities. A quick Google search can locate activities that develop skills and are suited to the autistic person's interests.
- Parents should remember to allow their children to develop at their own pace, and ensure that they don't feel overwhelmed or pressured by demands to improve. Letting the child grow at a comfortable place will best ensure health, happiness, and confidence.
- Aquilla P, Yack E, Sutton S. "Sensory and motor differences for individuals with Asperger Syndrome: Occupational therapy assessment and intervention" in Stoddart, Kevin P. (Editor) (2005), p. 198.
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