Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders

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Helping Asperger's Kids with Motor-Planning Difficulties

“Would you have any tips to help my little girl (age 5) with Asperger’s (high functioning) to be more coordinated with her hands? She has a lot of problems with rather simple tasks like tying shoes, writing, and zipping up her jacket.”

Kids with Asperger’s and High-Functioning Autism who have motor-planning difficulties often benefit from “hand-over-hand” teaching techniques. Young people on the autism spectrum often struggle to learn - and remember - new motor skills. They learn best when they can feel the movements required to perform a particular task. The hand-over-hand technique can be used to teach these kids numerous tasks requiring eye-hand coordination, such as how to draw, cut with scissors, tie shoe laces, and spread peanut butter with a knife.

Kids who can tolerate hand-over-hand physical contact can be taught how to perform certain tasks as the parent places her hand around the youngster’s fingers to perform the required movements (e.g., buttoning shirts, moving a crayon, etc.). Kids who have an aversion to being touched (i.e., tactile defensiveness) often benefit from “touch desensitization” first by having their hands rubbed with lotion or a soft cloth.

Children can also learn motor skills using adapted equipment (e.g., “dual-control scissors” have four holes that enable both the parent and youngster to grasp scissors together, thus enabling the youngster to experience the needed motions without actually being touched).

The hand-over-hand technique is a simple procedure that often yields quick results and helps the child to correctly perform tasks that require fine-motor skills, for example:
  • coloring within the lines
  • completing jigsaw puzzles
  • copying lines, circles and crosses
  • cutting skills  
  • drawing basic figures 
  • fastening buttons
  • playing instruments
  • playing video games
  • pushing buttons
  • scribbling in a closed-fist grip
  • stringing large beads
  • taking the pencil between thumb and index finger and resting on the middle finger
  • tracing diamonds or triangles
  • turning dials
  • tying shoelaces 
  • typing on a computer keyboard
  • using silverware
  • zipping and snapping clothing

The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook

1 comment:

KateGladstone said...

For what it's worth, I'm an Asperger adult with severe motor planning difficulties ... and I now teach/remediate handwriting, even though I didn't even write legibly myself till I was 24 and worked out how I could self-remediate for the handwriting issues. (This was before I was diagnosed, because it was 27 years ago.) if you want to hear a straight-from-the-Aspie's-mouth perspective on motor planning difficulties and what to do with them and about them, you can reach me at

Kate Gladstone
CEO, Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works
Director, the World Handwriting Contest

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