As kids grow, they are developing various abilities and skills over time and fine motor skills are one of the most essential. Fine motor skills allow kids to make fine (small) movements with their extremities (toes and fingers) as well as other body parts like their lips, tongue, feet, hands, and wrists. Kids use these essential skills to perform small movements such as grasping an object with their fingers.
Building Blocks Needed for Developing Fine Motor Skills
There are certain building blocks required to develop fine motor skills and when there is a delay in any of the following areas, in-person pediatric occupational therapy can help.
- Finger and Hand Strength: The ability to exert force against resistance using fingers and hands that enable the needed muscle power to control movement.
- Bilateral Integration: The use of two hands at the same time with one hand leading (i.e. one hand stabilizes a jar while the other opens the lid).
- Hand-Eye Coordination: Being able to process information the eye receives to guide, control and direct the hands to perform a task like handwriting.
- Hand Dominance: Using one (typically the same) hand consistently to perform tasks which enables the development of refined skills.
- Body Awareness (Proprioception): Data the brain receives from the joints and muscles to make you aware of the position and movement of your body so you can control your movements accurately.
Virtual learning has worsened outcomes for children who frequently don't have a teacher to notice the shortcomings in fine motor skills, handwriting visual skills, and more. And, it will continue to do so. When there isn't anyone watching the children, nobody will be there to advocate for them and inform them when pediatric occupational therapy is appropriate.
Essentially, virtual learning takes the benefits of in-person OT for enhancing fine motor skills in children away since it won't help detect any fine motor skill shortcomings. There isn't a teacher there to observe the child and notice they're having issues with their fine motor skills.