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What is a Motor Disorder?

Motor skills are skills essential for everyday living. They help a person move, manipulate objects, and interact with the environment. Motor skills are divided into two main domains.

Gross motor skills involve moving the large muscles of the body which, in infancy can be seen when the baby lifts his head when lying on his stomach and rolling over, and in the older child, when he is able to maintain his balance, walk, jump, reach, etc. Gross motor skills follow a pattern:   large muscles develop before small muscles and are the foundation for the development of other fine motor skills. The skills are developed in a top to bottom sequence. A person’s gross motor skill depends on the tone and strength of the muscles involved.

Fine motor skills involve using the small muscles of the hand with support from the larger muscles to manipulate objects and to transfer them from one hand to another and to coordinate visual information with hand movements. Fine motor skills involve using precise hand movements to achieve results in threading beads, coloring, cutting, handwriting, etc.Fine motor skills are superimposed on gross motor skills. For example, a student’s ability to maintain upper body support will affect his ability to sit erect and interact in class, as well as his handwriting.

Motor skills develop at different rates in all children. See Motor Milestones Checklist.

If your child has problems with balance, coordination and other gross motor milestones, he may have a gross motor, or coordination, disorder.  If your child has problems with manipulating small objects, cutting, coloring, handwriting, and other fine motor milestones, then he may have a fine motor disorder. Problems in the acquisition of gross motor and fine motor skills hinder the child’s ability to interact with the environment, thus slowing the rate of learning.