Motor and Visual Motor Deficits

Individuals with FASD may have trouble coordinating fine muscle movements (fine motor functions), such as finger movements important for writing or typing. They also may have trouble coordinating larger muscle groups and controlling whole body movements (gross motor functions), such as running and jumping.

Developmental Considerations

Some researchers report that fine motor problems are more common in younger children. Motor difficulties in the toddler stages and in early preschool aged children may include difficulties with specific movements like walking and smiling later than other kids their age as well as poor hand-eye coordination and balance.

In school aged children with prenatal alcohol exposure, some of the motor and visual-motor problems found in research are:

  • Delayed physical development
  • Unstable posture
  • Delayed reaction time
  • Poor fine motor speed and coordination
  • Inconsistent timing of movements
  • Trouble coordinating two hands together (i.e. tying shoelaces)
  • Using too much or too little force in their movements
  • Difficulty regulating arm movements
  • Weak grasp
  • Difficulty controlling eye movements
  • Poor hand eye coordination
  • Trouble interpreting visual information and spatial information (visual-spatial functions)

Researchers are still unclear as to the extent to which these difficulties persist into adolescence and adulthood. More research is needed to understand the motor challenges and strengths at older ages.

Some of the motor impairments seen in people with FASD may be due to sensory difficulties. Problems in coordination, posture, and balance can be caused by slower muscle development.

Motor and visual-motor problems can affect many areas of a child's life. For example, a child's experience in sports or physical education class can improve with the right intervention. Balance, posture, and hand eye coordination may be improved upon. Working on fine motor and visual-spatial skills might reduce other academic difficulties. For example, a child with good fine motor skills might not have trouble holding a pencil properly. Adaptive functioning, such as daily activities like getting dressed may become easier for a child in the appropriate coordination and fine motor skills intervention.


What Educators Need to Know about FASD: Working Together to Educate Children in Manitoba with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder
FASD overview; common characteristics of FASD; strategies for teachers and parents to assist in meeting the needs of children (from Healthy Child Manitoba)
Motor and visual motor: pp. 9-12

Cognitive Interventions to Improve Math Skills
Video webinar with handouts Dr. Carmen Rasmussen and Dr. Jacqueline Pei discuss math deficits in FASD. Looking at existing math research in Atlanta and replicating the research in Alberta with some modifications. Contains information on visual-spatial skills (accompanying visual with verbal), use of manipulatives, and writing skills (from Alberta FASD CMC)

Teaching Students with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder: Building Strengths, Creating Hope (Programming for Students with Special Needs: Book 10)
Overview of FASD; Concepts for teaching and strategies to help with learning needs (from Alberta Education)
Motor difficulties information and strategies: pp. 78-81


Fine Motor Development Resources
Activities to target fine motor difficulties for individuals with special needs (from Do2Learn)

Teaching Students with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Effects: A Resource Guide for Teachers
Website containing information for teachers (along with strategies) about students with FASD, attention problems, cause and effect thinking, social skills, personal skills, memory, language, motor skills, and specific academic subjects (from BC Ministry of Education)

Developmental Coordination Disorder
Although this website is not FASD specific, it contains great information and strategies for motor and coordination difficulties (from CanChild, McMaster University)

Stepping Out on Saturdays (SOS) (Manitoba)
A respite program through Manitoba's Rehabilitation Centre for Children for children 3-12 years old with FASD. The program provides respite to parents while providing opportunities for children to develop social skills, self regulation, fine motor and gross motor skills