Many children with autism exhibit fine motor problems. Fine motor skills include the movements of the small muscles for such activities as fastening buttons, and holding a spoon or a pencil. Weak fine motor skills affect a child’s small movements of grasping, gripping, and pinching, as well as strength, control, and agility. All of this can drastically affect the ability of children with autism to learn handwriting.
Fine motor impairments are seen even in high-functioning individuals. And a recent study published in the Schafer Report (November 24, 2010) found that handwriting problems persist into the adolescent years.
Faith Brynie, a scientific and medical writer, and author of “Brain Sense,” discussed in a Psychology Today article new research that examines the link between handwriting problems and autism.
The study by the Kennedy-Krieger Institute in Baltimore identified fine motor control as a root source of some of the problems categorized as autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The study revealed that children with ASD may have difficulty forming letters even if they don’t exhibit problems in other cognitive or sensori-motor areas.
“Identifying this fine motor deficiency in handwriting provides important insight about ASD,” said Bastian. “It provides another example of motor skill problems that may give us cues for other deficits with socialization and communication. Furthermore, occupational therapists and teachers can now take the information from this study and apply it to the students they see on a daily basis.”
If you have an autistic child, you are undoubtedly working with an occupational therapist to improve your child’s fine motor skills and thus his or her handwriting. Lisa Schaffer, a writer for the Bright Hub Early Childhood Education and Special Needs channels, offers some suggestions that you can do with your child at home to also work on the fine motor skills.
“Get out the Playdoh and have fun!” says Lisa. “Mash it, squish it, pinch it, roll it, and hide small toys in it. Legos or Duplos are always fun, too. Build tall towers, taking turns placing the blocks. Start with the larger Duplos and as your child gains strength and control, switch to the smaller Lego blocks.”
An ergonomic pen such as my UGLee Pen, will also go a long way toward helping your autistic child improve fine motor skills. Since this pen is easy to grasp and grip (actually, it holds on to You), using it can reduce the frustration your autistic child might feel when learning handwriting. It relaxes the hand, and the easy flowing ink prevents any drag on the paper. Give it a try and allow your autistic child to have a positive experience with handwriting.