Add These Three Observations to Your Fine Motor Assessment

by Marie Frank, OTR/L, and Monica Fortunato, OTR/L
Authors of Schoodles School Fine Motor Assessment

Fine motor assessments in schools rely on standardized tests and evaluations of functional skills to determine needs and intervention strategies. However, there are important skills that are not covered in standardized tests that can have an impact on functional skills. These skills are often excluded in OT reports we have reviewed. We believe evaluating these core areas is key to unlocking many of the causes of poor fine motor performance. Following are the top three areas often missed by school OTs along with short videos demonstrating assessment techniques.

1: Postural Control

Legible handwriting begins with a solid core. Examining this foundational skill is imperative. Students with weak core strength and poor postural stability have difficulty maintaining sustained upright seated positions. This can impact handwriting, reading, far-point copying, attention, and seated carpet time. These students are often fatigued by the end of the school day. In-class observation is as important as clinical observations. Watch for lying down during rug time; propping head on hands; draping self on desk, objects, or other students; and frequent position changes. View the postural control assessment technique.

2: Upper Extremity Strength

Students with poor upper extremity strength and weak hands can have difficulty with handwriting; scissor use; and managing school materials, clothing fasteners, and food containers. Hands-on assessment of strength can reveal invaluable information. If students are found to have weak hands and/or upper extremities, a strengthening program for school and home can dramatically improve functional skills. View the upper extremity strength assessment technique.

3. Hand and Finger Coordination

Students with poor finger individuation, poor separation of the two sides of the hand, and an inability to imitate static hand positions and fine motor movements may not have the underlying hand skills to perform functional fine motor tasks at school. Here are some examples:
  • Poor thumb and finger touching may mean a child will do better with modified finger positions when typing.
  • Poor separation of the two sides of the hand may indicate a child will struggle using school tools.
  • An inability to imitate hand positions may indicate poor motor planning skills.

View the hand and finger coordination assessment technique.

For more information about the assessment of fine motor challenges, check out Monica and Marie’s webinar listed below or visit their site at

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