Gross & Fine Motor Development in ADHD Children

Many children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, are constantly in motion. However, many of those children have trouble controlling those motions, and deficiencies in fine and gross motor skills are common. (reference 1) These difficulties can cause problems in both school and social activities. Fortunately, there are ways parents can help their children develop these skills or learn to compensate for their difficulties.

Lack of Body Control

Children with ADHD often have difficulty controlling unnecessary movements, according to a study reported in a 2011 issue of the American Academy of Neurology's journal "Neurology." According to the report, these difficulties may explain why some children with ADHD have difficulties with motor coordination and body control. Many also have trouble performing tasks that require motor control, such as writing, coloring and tying shoelaces. (reference 1)

Understanding the Symptoms

Many children are naturally active. However, children with ADHD may start to show signs of motor difficulties from an early age. From the time they start crawling, these children always seem to be "on the go" without any regard for safety or for where their parents or caregivers might be. As toddlers, many skip walking and go right to running. Children with ADHD appear to be in constant motion, without a goal or purpose to their movements. Many are highly accident-prone and require constant supervision. (reference 3) The exact causes of ADHD are unknown, but may be caused by differences in the way messages are sent in the brain. Researchers also think it may be inherited. (reference 5)

Trouble in School

A child's gross and fine motor difficulties will become more apparent once he enters school and cannot perform age-appropriate tasks, such as buttoning shirts and tying shoes. As the child gets older, he may struggle with writing or athletic activities. A child with both ADHD and motor skills difficulties often has difficulty with the mechanics of writing. Planning motor movements and memorizing motor patterns can be problematic. These children seem so clumsy and awkward they are rarely picked for teams at school, which may lead to social isolation. (reference 4)

Finding Solutions

While it may be tempting to force your child to practice writing his letters or tying his shoes over and over again, be careful not to set him up for failure and disappointment. Instead, work with your child's school to provide accommodations, such as a keyboard for writing. (reference 1) Break tasks that cannot be avoided, like getting dressed or bathing, into smaller, more manageable chunks. If necessary, give your child a list or picture board detailing the steps he needs to take so he can refer to it as needed. (reference 2) An occupational therapist may be able to help your child develop his fine motor skills, while a physical therapist can work on gross motor development and balance.