ine motor skills are how we use our hands
and coordinate the small muscles that control
our fingers. Those skills, along with other arm
functions such as reaching and grasping, can
be affected by stroke. The stroke’s severity
determines the extent of this weakness.
A stroke may affect many upper extremity functions:
• motor control
• one’s perception of where their body is in space
(known as proprioception)
• decreased sensation
• shoulder weakness
• weakness in the wrist and hand
These can have a serious impact on a survivor’s life,
particularly on how they are able to manage many essential
activities of daily living (ADLs).
Something as basic as putting on a shirt shows us the
importance of fine motor skills. The survivor must pick
up the shirt, orient it, put his/her arms through the sleeves.
They must pull it into place and manage buttons, zippers
or other fasteners. All of this can be challenging with
impaired fine motor skills.
To maximize independence with
ADLs and mobility, survivors benefit
from rehabbing these skills with an
Fine motor skill therapy may
be either inpatient or outpatient,
• Participating in ADLs: Things like buttoning a shirt,
tying shoe laces, cutting food, opening food containers
and performing toilet hygiene use fine motor skills and
encourage their use in other everyday tasks.
• Functional tasks like combing your hair, feeding
yourself or brushing your teeth.
• Therapeutic activities that are less functional, like
stacking cones or threading beads on yarn. Typically,
By Leanne Suero, OTR/L
Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation
West Orange, New Jersey
Fine Motor Skills