More often than not, those who have an Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), may have difficulties with movement or have poor motor skills. Discovering this made things make so much sense for me, as I always wondered why I was so clumsy and why seemingly simple things such as tying my hair up or unbuttoning a button can sometimes be tiring. In this post, I hope to be able to make sense of why motor skills are important and the difficulties and challenges those on the spectrum face with regards to this, and how it affects us.
Motor skills are the abilities and skills that we learn in order for us to perform complex movements that require the use of our muscles and nerves. There are two kinds of motor skills, gross motor skills and fine motor skills. Gross motor skills refer to larger movements that you do using your limbs. These include walking, running, standing up, jumping, crawling and the like. Fine motor skills are smaller movements that require smaller muscles such as the muscles in your hands. These include writing, drawing, sewing and simple everyday tasks such as buttoning up your shirt or tying your shoelaces.
Ever since I was young, while I had no problem verbalizing everything, I did have problems with movement. I was always clumsy and had a harder time learning new skills that involved the use of my limbs. This was seen mostly in the fact that I have a hard time learning dances, which was quite interesting as I was heavily into musical theater at one point in my life. I’ve always been an awkward dancer, and I always have no idea what to do with my limbs. It’s either that or I know what I’m supposed to do with them, it is just that they don’t behave the way I want them to. Because of this, I remember spending hours really studying the choreography we were given for each musical number in a play, because if not, I wouldn’t really get it at all.
Ballroom dancing came much easier to me because there were less complicated steps, and it was repetitive; as compared to actual choreography where you had to pay attention to both your arms, hands, legs, feet, and of course, you have to act and sing all at the same time.
Aside from that, I did have a tendency to be extremely clumsy, and until now, I always trip over practically nothing, and I do have trouble estimating how I move around a room, which often does result in several nasty bruises.
I also have exceedingly poor eye hand coordination, which meant that I had an extremely hard time in Physical Education class, which I dreaded. I had a hard time catching balls, hitting balls, and the like.
Aside from having poor gross motor skills, those on the spectrum also have poor fine motor skills.
This means that simple tasks such as buttoning things, zipping things up, sewing, tying shoelaces, drawing and writing, can be quite difficult for us.
Poor handwriting is a big indicator of this. Children with poor fine motor skills often have a hard time holding and manipulating pencils, and the result of this is that we often have atrocious handwriting. I remember bawling at the fact that no matter how hard I practiced, I often got low grades at penmanship, and which is why I prefer typing things rather than writing things down.
Having poor fine motor skills means that other everyday tasks such as opening bottles or bags can be quite difficult, and when you get to my age, it gets frustrating as it takes longer than most people to do particular seemingly simple things.
I also cannot cut with scissors well, and I remember spending hours on my American Girl Paper Dolls as a kid, trying my very best to cut the dresses out so that it would look nice, and then getting horribly frustrated after seeing that it didn’t come out the way I wanted it to.
As I got older, aside from everyday tasks and skills, poor fine motor skills meant that I did have quite a hard time putting on make up and more intricate things such as eyeliner and mascara. However, it is only now, after years of practice, that I can confidently say that I can pull it off.
However, sometimes, things like opening a bottle or tying my shoelaces can be surprisingly tiring for me.
Poor motor skills can actually be detected in how the child acts and behaves when doing sports, activities, or simple everyday tasks.
As soon as one notices this, this should be mitigated because these seemingly unimportant skills are actually important in the long run. As mentioned earlier, some of these simple fine motor tasks are essential everyday tasks. After all, these do include tasks such as brushing one’s teeth, and dressing up independently. Being unable to do this and other simple tasks really does take a toll on one’s self-confidence, as these skills are necessary skills in order to be more independent.
Aside from this, having poor gross motor skills can also cause some embarrassment to the individual in question, because unlike with fine motor skill activities, most people can see the mistakes and clumsiness of someone with poor gross motor skills. This can largely be seen when it comes to sports and team sports, in which we often perform poorly in. This can also lead to alienation in team sports because, let’s be honest, no one wants the class klutz on their team.
However, these things, while it will never really go away, can be mitigated by having the child or individual do activities that allow them to practice using their fine and gross motor skills. Aside from this, encourage them and help them have a positive attitude towards these difficulties and challenges, as I know from experience that we will definitely get frustrated and have a tendency to give up.
For the individual in question, don’t feel ashamed about this. Take your time if you need to take your time, and if you think you need a little practice in some areas, do so. Also, it wouldn’t hurt to also do some sports that you think you would enjoy, and make sure that you do it in a safe space or get an instructor so that you can do things one on one instead of with an entire group. In the end, doing this will also give you a big boost of confidence as well.
Do you have poor motor skills? How have you tried to improve them or tried activities to improve your child’s poor motor skills? Let me know what you think in the comments below!