“Development of fine motor skills is associated with expressive language outcomes in infants at high and low risk for autism spectrum disorder” From the Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders.
A growing body of research suggests that fine motor abilities are associated with skills in a variety of developmental domains, including language.
Fine motor skills are one specific domain for which deficits and delays are common in ASD. These skills refer to one’s ability to make fine hand movements that often require sophisticated object manipulation and appear more vulnerable to delay in ASD relative to general gross motor behaviours such as walking. In fact, children and adults with ASD show difficulties in fine motor skills ranging from grasping toys to handwriting.
Early motor skills were found to be associated with the rate of expressive language development in high-risk infants who develop ASD. These findings thus suggest that motor and language skills are interrelated in development.
One possible explanation for the relation between motor and language skills is that development of skills in one domain (i.e.,fine motor) can extend across other domains (i.e., language) over time to influence an outcome—a concept known as developmental cascades.
Specifically, infants with new motor skills have new learning opportunities to interact with the environment and people, which may subsequently influence how others interact with them, which in turn facilitates child language development.
For example: A infant may be engaging in a fine motor activity with an educator. The educator uses language to explore, name objects, give praise and to extend an activity. The child is developing fine motor skills while interacting with the educator. Vocabulary and language skills are developed alongside the fine motor activity and the result is increased expressive language.