Sensory-motor skills are present in babies and continue to develop throughout childhood. Babies can grasp rattles, respond to different sounds and begin to visually track objects in the first months of life. As a child grows, these beginner skills lead into the further development of fine motor, visual motor and sensory processing skills. They’re the foundation for our ability to interact with and function in the world around us.
In some children, these motor skills may take longer to develop due to a physical or cognitive condition. If you have any concerns about your child’s sensory-motor, fine motor or sensory processing development, you should contact a licensed Occupational Therapist.
Why Occupational Therapy?
Occupational therapy facilitates sensory-motor and fine motor development, including the following:
- Sensory Integration / Sensory Processing
- Manual Dexterity
- Bilateral Motor Coordination
- Visual Perception
- Hand-Eye Coordination
Does My Child Need Occupational Therapy?
Additionally, below are some common benchmarks to observe. If any of these benchmarks are not being met, it may be indicative of the need for an evaluation:
- Pulls off socks and shoes
- Cooperates with dressing (helps to pull off clothing and extends arms and legs to assist with dressing)
- Scribbles on paper
- Stands alone
- Walking (1-2 steps alone)
- Uses thumb and pointer finger to pick up small objects
- Snips with scissors
- Imitates horizontal, vertical lines and circular marks
- Removes elastic waist pants
- Builds at least a 6 block tower
- Pushes, pulls or carries toys while walking (18 months)
- Cuts straight lines
- Copies vertical, horizontal lines and circles
- Buttons large buttons
- Throws tennis ball 5 to 7 feet overhand with one hand
- Catches large ball thrown from 5 feet away
- Cuts out a circle
- Zips jacket
- Copies intersecting lines, diagonal lines, simple shapes, some letters and numbers
- Balances on one foot for 10 seconds or longer
- Prints name from memory
- Colors within the lines
- Draws a person with at least 6 or more different parts
- Cuts out a square
- Copies letters and numbers
- Skips Independently
- Rides a bicycle independently
Occupational Therapy Can Help Children Who:
- Have significant weakness in their upper trunk and shoulders and are unable to prop on forearms to lift their head and look at toys or people by four months of age.
- Do not have head control and/or trunk control to reach with their arms to interact with toys that are age appropriate.
- Have atypical muscle tone which limits their ability to use head, eyes and/or hands together to explore the environment.
- Are unable to use both hands together to hold a bottle or cup and/or to play with toys, string beads, put Lego’s together, etc.
- Lack motor coordination to finger feed by ten months of age and to spoon feed by twenty months of age.
- Have difficulty establishing a sleep/wake cycle or self-regulation skills and are seen as irritable infants.
- Have difficulty using vision and motor skills together (for example, scoop food onto a spoon and locate mouth or catch and throw a ball).
- Are under or over sensitive to touch, movement, and/or sounds, are overwhelmed by sounds in the environment, or easily become upset by changes in routine.
- Experience difficulty with the performance of self-care activities, including brushing teeth, buttoning a shirt and tying shoes.
- Have difficulty with fine motor activities such as handwriting or cutting with scissors.
- Have difficulty with oral motor skills, including sucking, biting, chewing and licking.
- Have difficulty initiating or completing tasks such as doing a simple puzzle or playing on the slide or swing.
- Experience problems in school with visual motor and visual perceptual activities, such as copying from the board and completing assignments accurately.
- Exhibit an aversion to tactile input, including not wanting to participate in “messy” activities or becoming frustrated when physical contact is given.
- Have difficulty maintaining balance during motor activities, including climbing stairs, running, jumping or skipping.
- Have difficulty with cognitive tasks such as following instructions, problem solving and organization.
- Have difficulty in social situations, including interacting and playing appropriately with other children.