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Primary Focus: Children & Youth


  1. Understand the relationship between sensory-based strategies and their use to address fine motor difficulties
  2. Describe the evidence regarding the use of sensory-based strategies to improve fine motor skills
  3. Discuss the implications of this systematic review for occupational therapy practitioners
  4. Integrate the evidence identified in this presentation into your clinical practice


Background: Evidence indicates there is a high prevalence of fine motor difficulties amongst school-age children (Karlsdottir & Stefansson, 2002). Fine motor difficulties impact occupational roles, participation, and performance, and influence psychosocial well-being--especially when the child is aware of their differences as compared to peers (Kirby & Sugden, 2007). When parents and teachers observe fine motor challenges, and attempts to address these deficits proves ineffective, OT services are pursued (Hammerschmidt & Sudsawad, 2004). Thus, OTs in pediatric settings often receive a many referrals for services related to remediating fine motor deficits (Hoy, Egan, & Feder, 2011). OTs most often implement sensory-based strategies to address fine motor difficulties (Woodward & Swinth, 2002). Therefore, it is imperative that OT practitioners identify and understand the evidence to support these strategies to ensure intervention effectiveness and best practices. Objective: The purpose of this presentation is to identify the evidence supporting the use of sensory-based interventions for fine motor performance. Methods: A systematic search of databases CINAHL, PubMed, OT Search, and OT Seeker yielded 235 articles after removal of duplicates. Title, abstract, and full text screens were completed using inclusion/exclusion criteria, yielding 13 articles for final critique. Authors independently critiqued final articles using Law et al. Critical Review Form for Quantitative Studies as adapted by Teal Benevides. Findings The majority of articles (11/13) found improvements in fine motor outcomes. Sensory-based strategies combined with fine motor activities elicited the most improvement in fine motor skills. Specifically, participants demonstrated improvement in handwriting, visual motor skills, functional skills and self-care skills. Results of one study suggest sensory-only strategies were effective in improving handwriting, visual motor skills, and in-hand manipulation, however a different study showed no improvement in these skills. Conclusions: There is moderate evidence to support the use of sensory-based strategies combined with fine motor activities to improve fine motor skills in school age children in an outpatient and school setting. However, there is conflicting evidence to support the use of sensory-only strategies. Further research, with more rigorous methodology is required to determine the extent and scope of the efficacy of these strategies.

Level of Material Being Presented: Introductory

Target Audience: OTR/L, COTA, Researchers

Presentation: 46 minutes