Helping Your Autistic Child Develop Fine Motor Skills

Helping Your Autistic Child Develop Fine Motor Skills

As a child grows and develops, they master gross motor skills (which involve the large muscles in the body) and then fine motor skills. The development of fine motor skills involves smaller tasks like manipulating things with their hands and developing hand eye coordination. Children on the autism spectrum may have difficulty with these skills on their own. Through therapy and activities using sensory components these may be learned. Understanding your child is crucial in fostering an environment that is safe and fun, not to mention rewarding for the child.

Establishing a Proper Learning Environment

In order to help children with autism develop fine motor skills it is important to create a proper atmosphere and environment so that the child can learn in an efficient manner. In an article written by Barbara Smith for, she notes that distractibility and the child’s desire to seek out movement and other sensory experiences can negatively affect a child’s ability to sit and learn basic skills. She recommends creating a workspace that is distraction free as possible with possibly the child wearing some kind of headphones to block out sounds. The article suggests keeping the training sessions short and frequent with a sensory reward after such as jumping on a trampoline or squeezing a ball. This should help the child concentrate on the task at hand and foster an efficient learning experience.

What Do I Need to Help?

It is important for a child to develop their fine motor skills. To someone not familiar with the autism spectrum it may seem trivial to have a child put a round peg in a round hole, but as Ella Rain points out in an article for fine motor skills challenges can make writing, drawing, and getting dressed very difficult. It’s the control in these small muscles in the hands that is necessary for many life skills. The use of pegboards with different colored and sized pegs, puzzles, and other toys that require manipulation with the hands and fingers are perfect for a fun and stimulating way to help children develop their fine motor skills.

Finding the correct learning aids in cognitive development can introduce concepts like shape and color recognition, not to mention spatial relationships and problem solving. They also can help develop hand eye coordination and improve finger strength and dexterity. The use of peg boards can help develop hand and finger dexterity. The Sammons Preston Graded Pegboard offers five rows of graded height pegs with each row a different color and height while Kinsman offers the Get-A-Grip Pegboards. Both are designed to strengthen visual perception skills, fine motor skills, and visual motor coordination. Taking the idea pegboards one step further, the Guidecraft Colored Geo Forms introduces geometric shapes into the pegboard theme. This toy teaches shape recognition, color matching, and size progression.

The use of puzzles can help improve shape recognition as well as manual dexterity. The Rolyan Complex Form Board uses 12 shapes for training in shape recognition and sequencing. Another great fine motor skills toy is the Melissa & Doug Shape Sorting Cube. It has top and side cutouts that correspond with each shape (which is vibrantly colored) and makes a satisfying clink as they drop into the naturally finished hardwood cube. A great way for a child to develop their fine motor skills is to have them use their fingers to determine shapes. The Guidecraft 3-D Feel and Find Puzzle has 20 matching wooden shapes and textured tiles that allows a child to reach into the bag and find the matching piece using their hands and fingers. These pieces are made with safe non-toxic paints. Another fun way to help a child develop their fine motor skills is to combine the game tic-tac-toe and wooden puzzles together. The Giant Tic-Tac-Toe Puzzle features large (2-1/2“ high and 3/4“ thick) easy to hold pieces for children with poor grasps.

Any toy that requires manipulation with the hands and fingers can be utilized to help a child develop their fine motor skills. The Anatex Deluxe Mini Play Cube offers a child a multi-activity play station with a game on all five sides. It helps with hand eye coordination, color recognition, and much much more. The Yes-U-Can Fine Motor Exercise Kit has everything necessary to improve fine motor coordination and has exercise programs and descriptions included. Another great approach is to use a version of a classic toy. The Etch-a-Sketch Drawing Toy features 4 built-in switches which allows the user to go in horizontal and vertical directions to create exciting drawings. When the drawing is done, just remove it from its base and shake to start over. The base also has four jacks for capability switches. It helps increase visual attention, directionality, and encourages bilateral hand usage. These toys all have their therapeutic values and foster an environment of learning and fun!!


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