Gross and fine motor coordination are developmental outcomes of successful sensory integration, supporting the child’s ability to learn and play.
Gross motor skills require whole body movements, involving the larger muscles of the body. This enables the child to perform everyday functions such as walking, running, negotiating playground equipment, sporting skills and the ability to maintain an upright sitting posture. Gross motor skills also include eye-hand coordination skills such as throwing and catching a ball, riding a bicycle and skating. Children with gross motor difficulties often avoid physical activities and have a general disinterest in these activities. They often have an interest in passive activities such as watching TV and playing on iPads.
We need to physically experience and explore the world around us before we can apply our skills in a formal learning environment. Exploring the world within a three dimensional level e.g. crawling through a tunnel or climbing up a tree; eventually enables us to interpret our world on a two dimensional level e.g. identifying letters like b/d or p/q or copying letters onto a page. Through movement, our eyes are constantly having to adjust their focus to ever changing distances. Fluid eye movements support the child’s ability to perform tasks such as catching a ball, copying from the board and reading fluently.
Fine motor skills involve the coordination of small muscles in movements. These involve the synchronisation of hand and finger movements with the eyes. They involve smaller actions such as picking up objects between the thumb and fingers and handwriting. Children with fine motor difficulties may show avoidance and have a disinterest in activities such as colouring-in, cutting, threading beads and handwriting. They may also find it challenging to develop independence in everyday activities such as getting dressed, doing up buttons or zips and feeding themselves. This in turn may have social implications within the family and amongst their peers.
Gross motor abilities can affect fine motor abilities e.g. a child who struggles to maintain an appropriate sitting posture at the desk may find fine motor skills such as handwriting, drawing and cutting, challenging. This could impact on their focus in class and may affect their ability to learn.