Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Autism and Bilateral Coordination - Why Fine Motor Skills Are Important Too

How is bilateral coordination important in Autism? A major attribute that places us humans apart from many other animals is our ability to use tools - our manual dexterity, our bilateral coordination. Along with primates, we have an opposing thumb and separate digits that allow us a greater range of grasp and manipulation of objects in our environment.

We pay a great deal of attention to our baby's developing gross motor skills e.g. crawling, walking, climbing and running. They are our way markers, our important milestones.

We pay much less attention to how our babies learn to use and coordinate their hands, their hand-eye co-ordination and the complex development of fine motor skills.

Achieving bilateral coordination (the competent use of both hands together) and fine motor skills is another major milestone in child development, without which we cannot fully master complex physical tasks, including the use of cutlery, dressing, drawing, handwriting and using scissors. Nor can we experience fully all the sensory information available to us.

Have you noticed how many children on the autistic spectrum perform tasks with only one hand?

Check out the many videos of autistic children on Youtube and those on the Autism Speaks Video Glossary. Compare the dexterity of the 12 month old neuro-typical child with the much older 'red flags for ASD' children.

Why is no one concerned by this glaringly obvious developmental marker?

It is hardly surprising these children show limited interests, and repetitive movements. They do not yet have the physical skills to interact with objects, and explore their environment, irrespective of their lack of interaction with people.

Can we say for definite that the typical autism trait of lining up of cars and objects is not imaginative play, mimicking sitting in traffic on the way to the mall for example? Do we also know categorically that the child is not testing and honing his hand-eye co-ordination and spatial awareness in this lining up activity... or that he is not developing his geometric and numerical abilities? Children on this spectrum are known to enjoy intricate patterns!

He knows he is successful in lining up objects, or building towers from large blocks - and toddlers like to be successful! I would say that most babies are not great risk takers, until they know they have minimised the risk. Success is usually spurred on by receiving external reward and praise from parents, siblings or carers. Sadly the baby or toddler with autism cannot readily access that either.

Young babies tend to use the hand that is most convenient at the time. If an object is placed near their right hand, they will reach with that one, but if it is nearer their left hand, they are likely to reach with their left. By about 18 months, most babies begin to show a hand preference (about 90% of the time, it is for their right hands) and by their third birthdays, almost all children can be described as either right or left handed.

Difficulties with gross and fine motor skills, awkward gait, avoidance of PE and sports are all relevant to autism. Dyspraxia, or motor planning has been co-morbid with autism as far back as I can remember, To find out about how and when babies develop bilateral coordination, and to understand why helping your child to improve coordinated use of both hands will impact significantly on your child's autism visit: http://autism-toddler-program.com

Pauline was a Specialist Teacher for 15 years. She has now has set up a parent-led early intervention program for newly diagnosed children under 5 years old with ASD. To read more about the range of behaviours displayed by older children with autism then visit: http://www.autism-toddler-program.com/autism-behaviors.html

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Pauline_Oliver

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