Children with autism often have problems developing motor skills, such as running, throwing a ball or even learning how to write. Kids who have difficulty with motor skills might have trouble with what we think are simple things like brushing their teeth, buttoning, snapping or starting a zipper – things that are so basic to being independent, but would cause other problems at school. They would need to have an aide or someone helping them, and that would set them off as different from the other kids.

Some kids are not socially aware enough that it bothers them, but others are aware, and they feel bad about themselves.They may have low self-esteem, so even if they have delays only in the motor skills, there is a lot of impact on their well being into adulthood.

 Gross motor difficulties in children may be related to:

  • proprioception problems (lack of awareness of body in space)
  • lack of motivation to participate
  • avoidance because of the social nature of many of the skills
  • limited strength or muscle endurance
  • lack of confidence or a fear of moving equipment
  • difficulty problem solving to develop skills


  • Break up seated tasks with movement/engage in physical activity before a seated activity
  • Have heavy objects/materials for the child to carry
  • Marching-high kneeling, sitting in place
  • Balance activities-walk on a line, backwards, stand still with eyes shut

Some methods that therapists use when promoting motor development in children diagnosed with autism are:

  • Teaching remedial exercises that are designed to encourage improvement with letter formation, appropriate spacing between words, and a functional pencil grasp.

  • Providing adaptations for writing as the child gets older, such as keyboarding options on a portable word processing device.

  • Working on basic fine motor skills by having the child lace on lacing cards, stack blocks, assemble nuts and bolts and string beads.

  • Address strength issues in the hands and fingers by having the child search for beads hidden in putty, squeezing and placing clothespins on the edge of a box or jar, squeezing on exercise balls and using the thumb and index finger to pop the bubbles on plastic bubble wrap.

  • Offering hands-on assistance when practicing tasks such as buttoning, holding utensils, and tying laces, and then fading that assistance as the child gains mastery of the skills.

  • Providing children with ample opportunity to work on physical coordination and balance through supervised use of playground equipment, such as climbing up steps and ladders, walking on balance beams and navigating jungle gyms.

  • Increasing arm and leg coordination with activities such as swimming and moving to music.

  • Developing hand-eye coordination by practicing athletic skills such as catching, throwing, or kicking balls.

  • Working on crab walks, hopping like a frog, and wheelbarrow walking with the child.

  • Having the child jump over a rope stretched out with several curves (like a snake). Instruct the child not to touch the rope or loose balance while jumping.




Love to know Autism

“Rethink Autism Tip: Help Prepare Your Child for Fine Motor Skills” 

Autism Impacts Motor Skills

Guide to help develop fine motor skills

Tips for Promoting Fine Motor Skills

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