Research & Insights

Explore up to date articles and studies on Occupational Therapy.

The Development Of Fine Motor Skills in Pre-term Infants



Significant Clinical Findings

  1. 40% of preterm children without Cerebral Palsy (CP) have mild to moderate impairment in gross and fine motor skills.

    1. 20% have moderate impairment

  2.  Very preterm infants

    1. Risk factors that increase the risk of fine motor skill impairments

      • Intrauterine growth restriction

      • Infections during preterm period (i.e. necrotizing enterocolitis, late-onset sepsis) 

      • Bronchopulmonary dysplasia and dexamethasone treatment

  3. Moderately Preterm Infants (32–36wk gestation)

    1. Higher risk for fine motor impairment

    2. No increased risk for gross motor impairment

Relevance to O.T.

  • The health background of each child can help make sense of fine motor or gross motor impairments and help OTs use appropriate treatment methods.


Population (age, group size)

  • A meta-analysis of 73 studies

  • Children aged 1 month to 12 years old

  • Very preterm and moderately preterm (32–36wk gestation) infants​​


Take away for therapists

  1. Inquire with parents about whether a child was born preterm and experienced infections, intrauterine growth restriction, and bronchopulmonary dysplasia

  2. Potential therapeutic interventions to improve outcomes include

    1. Strategies providing neuroprotection, neural recovery, or neurogenesis by means of cerebral plasticity

    2. Administering anti-inflammatory and anti-apoptotic drugs, growth factors, and hypothermia in the early neonatal period after perinatal brain injury

    3. Intervention strategies at a functional level. 

      1. i.e. Handwriting skills in children with fine motor impairments show encouraging results


Take away for parents

  • If your child was a very preterm infant and has experienced infections, intrauterine growth restriction, and bronchopulmonary dysplasia, engage in fine-motor and gross motor activities at home.

  • If your child was a moderately preterm infant (32–36wk gestation), engage in fine-motor activities at home.

Citation: Bos, A.F., Van Braeckel, K.N.J.A., Hitzert, M.M., Tanis, J.C. and Roze, E. (2013), Development of fine motor skills in preterm infants. Dev Med Child Neurol, 55: 1-4. DOI:10.1111/dmcn.12297



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