Development of Fine Motor Skills in Down Syndrome

The Development of Fine Motor Skills in Down Syndrome

Fine motor development refers to the development of skills involving the smaller muscle groups such as the hand and the fingers. The development of fine motor skills in Down Syndrome usually follows the same pattern as in the typically developing. It may take a bit longer to achieve fine motor goals for children with Down Syndrome. These skills will also generally develop a bit later than in "typical" children.

Some examples of fine motor skills are using the pincer grasp (thumb and forefinger) to pick up small objects, cutting, coloring and writing and threading beads.

Some of the possible causes of delay in the development of fine motor skills in Down Syndrome include:

  • hypotonia (low muscle tone)
  • loose joints and ligaments
  • hand shape ( hands are smaller and fingers are shorter than typical)
  • decreased cognitive skills (making it more difficult for the child to reason things out and to learn to coordinate his movements)

*Note*That is not to say cognitive skills will not develop more. Cognitive skill usually develop later in babies with Down Syndrome so it follows that fine motor skills also develop later.

down syndrome, down syndrome fine motor skills

When your baby is young he will first work on developing his gross motor skills. Fine motor skills come a bit later, but you can help:

  • To help him become more aware of his hands gently massage his hands, then his fingers. Keep an eye on his reaction to this stimulation. If he fusses alot back off and take it a little bit at a time.
  • Place a toy (such as a rattle) against his flat palm. You will notice he reflexively closes his hand around the object.
  • Notice also that pulling gently on the thumb will open his hand when it is clenched in a fist.

  • More tips on aiding your baby's development

Below are listed some ways you can help to develop your child's fine motor skills when he is a little older.

(For more in depth reading go to Down Syndrome Book List and Resources)

  • Picking up small items (i.e. uncooked macaroni, cheerios, etc. and putting in cups or bowls.)Always, always stay with your child when doing this and make sure he does not put these items into his mouth.
  • Putting together snap lock beads
  • Manipulating puzzle pieces ( the kind with the pegs for picking up the pieces)
  • Brushing or combing his hair (or yours, but beware, he might get overzealous!)
  • You can give your child a crayon and piece of paper and let him go at it (make sure to supervise this activity)
  • Alternatively, a magna doodle might do the trick
  • Peg boards


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**The information on this website is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Rather, it is for educational and informational purposes only. You, the viewer, are responsible for obtaining health care for your child from his/her physician and other health care specialists. Always consult with your child's doctor before beginning any therapy programs.**