Kids Health Info

Brain injury - Fine motor skills

  • What are fine motor skills?

    Fine motor skills help us pick up, use and let go of objects such as a pen or cutlery, and they help us manipulate objects in our hands.

    Fine motor activities include drawing, cutting, doing up buttons and shoe laces.  After a brain injury, a child may have difficulty using their muscles (including those in their hands) because of changes to the signals that come from the brain to the muscles.

    How can fine motor skills be affected following brain injury?

    Either one or both hands can be affected in a number of ways, including:

    • muscles may be stiff and difficult to move
    • movement may be jerky or clumsy and difficult to coordinate
    • muscles may become paralysed or difficult to move quickly when the brain 'tells them to'
    • planning and executing movements may become difficult. (see Kids Health Info fact sheet:   Brain Injury - Dyspraxia)

    A child's ability to perform fine motor skills depends on a number of things, including muscle strength and coordination. A brain injury may also affect sensation which could then affect the ability to perform fine motor activities. Children who have had a brain injury can have long-term difficulties with fine motor skills.

    What is the treatment?

    An occupational therapist can assess children's fine motor skills and provide:

    • Exercises and specific activities to help children re-learn how to hold and let go of things, hold a pen, etc.
    • Casts, splints and stretching exercises are helpful if muscles have shortened.
    • Training to deal with difficult tasks. For example, they can teach how to tie shoelaces with one hand.
    • Special equipment to help with fine motor skills. For example, a weighted ruler or spring-loaded scissors.

    Key points to remember

    • Fine motor skills are skills that are used to help us manipulate and use objects with our hands.
    • Following a brain injury, a child's ability to use their muscles may be affected due to altered brain signals.
    • An occupational therapist can assess fine motor skills and provide recommendations for ways to improve or manage the difficulty.
    • Children who have had a brain injury can have long-term difficulties with fine motor skills.

    For more information

    Developed by the RCH Paediatric Rehabilitation Service,based on the Fine Motor Skills factsheet produced by the Brain Injury Service, The Children's Hospital at Westmead.First published January 2007. Updated November 2010.

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Disclaimer 
This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.