Motor Skills and Autism

November 14, 2016

As many as 1.5 million Americans today may be affected with autism. The three core difficulties that face this group include issues surrounding: social interaction, communication, and repetitive behaviors. In addition to these difficulties are problems with motor skills including posture, coordination and motor planning. According to Skills for Action, recent studies show that movement difficulties are very common in children on the autistic spectrum, and, importantly, poor motor skills are associated with greater difficulties with social communication.

Throughout each day many of us take for granted the motor skills we use constantly. For example, while writing this blog I am typing, sitting straight in my chair and holding my head correctly to see the screen and keyboard. Someone with ASD and motor skills difficulties may not be able to do this without years of practice and continued therapy. Simple movements of everyday life can take time and practice to control.

Dyspraxia is a general term used to cover a range of difficulties affecting the initiation, organization and performance of movements. It appears to involve problems with the brain’s ability to process information, which results in messages not being fully transmitted to the body. According to Growing Minds Autism Programs, many children with autism spectrum disorders show well-developed motor coordination and dexterity. However, there are numerous others with significant difficulties in movement and motor planning. Among this group, there are differences in the form that dyspraxia takes. The various forms of dyspraxia can exist together or separately.

Helping your child overcome motor difficulties may include therapeutic activities specifically designed to improve motor functions. In some cases, the child may excel in gross motor with significant impairments in fine motor, or vice versa. Some may have impairments in both areas. Each treatment plan needs to address the specific needs of each child. Usually, the therapeutic approach breaks down each motor skill into small steps that are mastered slowly. Once each is mastered, then the student moves on to the next goal. Repetition and home support becomes part of the process for goals to be achieved. Talk to your child’s physical and occupational therapist about what their motor skills goals are so you can help encourage and reinforce at home.