Developing motor skills in young ASD children

Motor skills are actions which enable us to use our arms, legs, feet, hands and our entire body. They are divided into two categories gross motor and fine motor. Gross motor are the larger movements of crawling, walking, running, jumping while fine motor are smaller actions which involve precise movement such as drawing, using utensils, using a zip tying a shoe lace. Acquiring motor skills is a developmental process and for your child with ASD this development may occur along the typically expected timelines or may be delayed.

Development of fine motor skills relies on the emerging skills of hand eye coordination which can be a challenge for a child with ASD. If your child has or is suspected as having an associated learning disability such as an Intellectual Disability(ID) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder(ADHD) then development of these skills could take a longer period of time. To assist your child to develop these skills the following are some developmental skills that you can do with your child to help them.


Fine Motor Skills

The development of fine motor skills will assist your child to manage smaller actions which involve precise movement.

Creating awareness of their hands and their function

Skills to encourage: Hand over hand teach hand clapping, touch fingers to fingers, engage in water and sand play to expose to different sensory experiences

Picking up objects

Skills to encourage: Hand over hand get your child to pick up objects between the thumb and fingers

Use large piece puzzles

Skills to encourage: Grasping of large puzzle pieces and matching into the cut out space

Pasting Activities

Skills to encourage: Paste pre-cut pieces of cardboard/paper/twine etc to another piece of paper or object

Develop twisting hand motions

Skills to encourage: Give windup toys and use hand over hand to develop the action of turning

Build Structures

Skills to encourage: Give large building blocks and model ‘on top of, next to’ by building a structure

Manipulate drawing and writing materials

Skills to encourage: Engage in hand over hand scribble activities with chunky crayons, pencils, markers and then fade away your support

Gross Motor Skills

Development of gross motor skills involves the larger and stronger muscle groups that enable your child to hold their head up, sit, crawl, stand, walk, run, hop and skip.  For your child with ASD encourage the following to develop confidence and coordination.


Skills to encourage: Provide a safe environment where your child can learn to walk and then move to walking without holding onto anything


Skills to encourage: Exposure to climbing equipment in a playground or steps and stairs in your house


Skills to encourage: Find a safe enclosed space for running so your child can learn the difference between running and walking


Skills to encourage: Jumping with both feet off the floor, use a mini trampoline, jump forward and backwards

Catching and kicking

Skills to encourage: Catching with two hands, throwing under and over arm and kicking of balls of various shapes and sizes

Development of motor skills will help your child with ASD to move safely within the many environments and support their health and well-being.  Fine motor skills will assist in your child’s  ability to be part of everyday activities in the home, at play, at early intervention and kinder and their readiness for primary school. Gross motor skill development will support your child in their ability to move around confidently across varying terrains and in different environments. It will also help to build confidence through adventure activities and learn the fundamentals of turn taking skills leading onto future team sports.


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