Gross and Fine Motor Activity Adaptations for Children With Autism

Children with autism frequently have difficulty focusing on one task. Their brains take in information about the world around them and interpret it differently, which can lead to sensory processing issues. These children are easily distracted by outside stimuli, often making it hard for them to focus on a motor skill long enough to practice and master it.

Cutting Down on Distractions

Autistic children work best in an environment where distractions are minimized. If practicing fine-motor skills, such as:

  • handwriting
  • in a classroom
  • the teacher can give the child headphones to wear
  • according to the Indiana Resource Center for Autism

At home, if a parent wants the child to practice tying her shoes, they could have her practice the task while facing a wall, as opposed to the center of the room where siblings might be a visual distraction. Avoiding visual and auditory stimuli can help an autistic child focus on the task without getting frustrated.

Adaptations for Seating

Some children with autism might feel the need to make repetitive movements while working on a task. A therapy ball allows for this activity, as long as the ball has legs to prevent it from rolling away. Parents and teachers can also give the child options for different seating positions, such as kneeling or using various cushions, depending on their sensory needs. Allowing the child to pick the position for working helps the child to be more open to working on the motor skill.

Shorter, Focused Practice Sessions

Shortened practice sessions might work best for autistic children. Parents can also simplify the activities to encourage a successful practice session. Using larger materials is one way to adapt a fine-motor activity for an autistic child. After each session, the child should receive sensory reinforcement, such as time on a trampoline, as incentive to practice again.

Adaptations for Gross Motor Activites

"All children may need basic motor skills, games, or movement activities broken down into manageable components," according to Kim Davis of the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community 1. Some of these adaptations can include smaller playing areas, using larger equipment, or changing the rules to fit the group of kids who are playing. A slower pace and less complicated rules can help both autistic children and those without sensory processing issues to understand the game better.