Developing Psychomotor Skills in the Case of Autistic Students


Physical effort gears the subject’s organism as a dynamic system, in all its development stages, as a certain profile corresponds to each ontogenic period, which leads to the processes of growing, development, optimisation, maximisation of capabilities, regeneration, etc. Various authors define effort from the perspective of physiology, psychology, or training theory, either as a process of strength mobilisation in view of overcoming an obstacle, or as a factor in antithesis with the recess state ( Demeter,1974 ), or as predominantly biological stimulus which forces the organism to respond with electric, biochemical, mechanical or thermic manifestations ( Bota, 2000 ), or as a process of conscious defeat of the requests in view of attaining a good level of training ( Dragnea, 1996 ). The psycho-motor dimension is an optimal way of non-verbal communication in the social environment for the child with autism. It is recognised that any child coordinates his motor activity in accordance with the mental image of the perceived act. Psycho-motor therapy facilitates, through its integrated programmes, the education of the individual, aiming at knowing one’s own body and at the identification of the self.

Keywords: Autismpsychomotor skillsautonomymotor behaviour


Motor development particularities for autistic children.Psychomotor disorders are common to

autistic children. They are primarily manifested through general motor insufficiency, inability and

imbalanced voluntary motion clumsy gait, lack of coordination, but also through the early occurrence of

athetoid syndrome specific stereotypes (bending fingers backwards and forward, shaking and rolling

palms, jumps, revolving, walking and running on one’s fingertips, etc.) Usually, in the case of autistic

children, the screening reveals the absence of some elementary self-serving skills (lacking autonomy in

activities such as: washing or dressing oneself, inability to use some objects for personal use, etc.)

The Main Objective of the Research

The purpose of research is that of organizing various individual and collective activities meant to

stimulate the volunteering, willing behaviour of autistic children. The autistic child’s appropriation of the

ludic clichés contributes in the formation of memory, attentiveness and perception. In the process of

guided activities, the autistic children gradually acquire the possibility to transfer what they learn into real

activities, which remarkably changes the child’s behaviour. In other words, this creatively regulates the

autistic child’s behaviour and increases their level of practical orientation in the surrounding environment.

The aim of the research is that of studying the psychomotor development particularities in the case of

autistic children. In our case, the observing research has targeted the study of deficient functions specific

to autistic children. The selection process for the present psycho-pedagogical study started from their

physical development (Radu & Ulici, 2003).

The examination programme includes a set of physical exercises meant to highlight the autistic

children’s psycho-physical, functional, cognitive and behavioural particularities.

Children’s Functional Development

Exercise 1. Imitation of hand moves

Aim :to imitate common hand moves

Task: to imitate common hand moves by repeated actions

Exercise 2. Imitative gestures using household objects

Aim: to imitate objects’ handling

Task: to imitate household objects’ handling

Exercise 3. Imitative exercises involving the tongue and the under-jaw

Aim: to improve the mouth motor skills as a prerequisite for speaking improvements

Task: to imitate a series of movements of the tongue and of the under-jaw

Perception Particularities

Exercise 1. Hiding objects

Aim: to correct visual attentiveness and observation skills

Task: to find an object hidden between other objects

Exercise 2. Image/ figure correlation

Aim: to learn to visually distinguish objects and study their combinations

Task: to find the equivalent of a simple pair of figures

Exercise 3. Noise sources distinction

Aim: to distinguish and combine noises

Task: to recognise various sounds and identify their source

Motor Skills Particularities

Exercise 1. Gymnastics: touching one’s toes

Aim: to stimulate flexibility

Task: to touch the toes with the fingers (ten times)

Exercise 2. Opening the doors and drawers of the cupboard

Aim: to increase the level of autonomy in day-by-day activities; to train the hands muscles

Task : to open the doors and the drawers of a cupboard without any help

Exercise 3. Standing on tiptoes

Aim : to better control balance; to strengthen the legs muscles

Task : to stand on tiptoes (ten times)

Fine Motor Skills Particularities

Exercise 1. Blowing soap bubbles

Aim: to improve motor control and gripping actions

Task: to open the liquid soap recipient and blow soap bubbles

Exercise 2. Writing

Aim: to improve motor control and gripping actions

Task: to hold the pencil (the paint brush) and draw a few lines on a paper

Exercise 3. Hand motion

Aim : to strengthen the hands muscles

Task: to perform hand and arm moves imitating the trainer

Eye-Hand Coordination

Exercise 1. Stringing beads – 2.

Aim: to develop a better eye-hand coordination; to use both hands

Task: to string two beads without any help from the adult

Exercise 2. Parts of the whole

Aim: to acknowledge the relation between part and whole; to correctly correlate the parts of a whole

Task: to join the two parts of a drawing (elementary jigsaw puzzle)

Exercise 3. Drawing. Circles

Aim: to improve the drawing skills

Task: to combine a number of dots arranged in a circle shape in order to obtain a simple drawing

Analysis of the Results

Children’s Functionality Development

The ability to imitate is the prerequisite for all instructive-educational processes. Without imitation,

the child is unable to acquire language or other behavioural patterns necessary for being included in their

respective culture. This is the reason why the research of imitative skills is an essential element for the

development of a child.

We carried out exercises meant to determine the imitative skills for each autistic child involved in the

project (the disorder had been previously confirmed by medical diagnostic).

Table 1 -
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The results indicate that the majority of children (57%) display an average level of movement


Table 2 -
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Perception Particularities

Many behavioural disorders of autistic children are the result of perception disorder and of the incorrect processing of sensorial information. The perception disorder in autism-diagnosed children are

varied and irregular.

The first exercise aimed at determining the visual attentiveness and the degree to which they note the differences in the objects they are shown.

Table 3 -
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It can be inferred that autistic children have visual perception issues. They better perceive shape and colour, but not the object as a whole and the size differences.

Motor Skills Development

Exercise 1 aimed at determining the degree of flexibility, and also the ability of imitating the

trainer’s moves. The results are presented in the table below.

Table 4 -
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Based on the results above, we could determine the development level of general motor skills. A

high motor skills level means imitation skills and flexibility; an average motor skills level has been

determined for children who partially fulfilled their task with the help of the adult, whereas a low level

was recorded for the children who partially fulfilled the task, refused to try or were unable to follow the


The analysis of the results has proven that the autistic children involved in the experiment do not

display high abilities of imitation actions which involve motor skills. Most of them (57%) partially

fulfilled their task, being able to imitate the first moves, but they had difficulties in accomplishing the

ulterior actions. In other cases, interest is stirred after multiple repetitions. 43% of the children display

low energy and muscular strength, low flexibility and low stamina. Exercise 2 aimed at determining the

degree of formation of hands oriented moves.

Table 5 -
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To conclude, the autistic children who were part of this experiment display partial formation of the

oriented moves of the hands. In some cases, this skill is extremely undeveloped. In other cases, after a

few repetitions, the skill of performing the given exercise was acquired but the low stamina level soon led to failure.

Fine Motor Skills Development

The first exercise aims at determining the degree of formation of fine motor skills control and of

gripping an object with the hand.

Table 6 -
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Based on the results, we have determined the degree of formation of motor skills control, the ability

to grip, the ability of individually performing a task and repeating it.

- High level – 29%. In the case of these children, the ability to hold an object is fully formed; they

have good motor skills control; after repetitions, they are able to fulfil all tasks by themselves;

- Medium level – 42%. The children possess the ability to grasp but they prove some difficulties in

performing the task; low motor skills control.

- Low level – 29%. The ability to grasp and hold an object is insufficiently developed; the motor skills

control is underdeveloped. Many repetitions were necessary for their fulfilling the required tasks on their


Eye-Hand Coordination

The first exercise aims at determining the ability to handle objects, and also the exercising and

coordinating of motor actions in standard circumstances (visual- tactile coordination, eye-hand

coordination). Table 9 presents the results of the experiment.

Table 7 -
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The analysis of the psychomotor programme proposed above leads to the conclusion that autistic

children face various difficulties in completing the tasks requiring the use of both hands. Also, eye-hand

coordination proves problematic in many instances. The integration of various types of functions is a

visible aspect of the vulnerability of autistic children. Thus, in performing actions which require eye-hand

coordination, it is particularly important to have in view the period when the separate functional

components develop. Although the autistic child may possess well-developed fine motor skills, the eye-

hand coordination may be underdeveloped due to blockings in the perceptive area (Verza, 2011 ).

Conclusions and Recommendations

An essential element in the recovery of the early autism spectrum disorder cases is the stable

environment, extremely important for the formation of personal and social autonomy skills. This entails

the structuring of the autistic children’s lives, the imposition of a strict schedule, with pre-established

timetables for each activity. Drawings or photographic images which represent the child’s activities

throughout the day may be helpful. Each day should be planned so as to alternate instructive activities

with physical and psychic recovery.

The special character of autistic child development also entails a whole spectrum of procedures

specific to social adaptation. It is not enough to draw the child’s attention to the reality surrounding him

(her). It is compulsory that we make sustained efforts to understand their inner world and that we attempt

at looking at the world with their eyes. The families should live with the children, not around them; they

should cooperate with the children and not manipulate them pretexting to fight the undesirable

behavioural elements. Last but not least, the children’s potential should be capitalized on.


  1. Bota, C. (2000). Ergofiziologie, Editura Globus, Bucuresti.
  2. Demeter, A. (1974). Bazele fiziologice ale educaţiei fizice şcolare. Editura Stadion, Bucureşti.
  3. Dragnea, A. (1996). Antrenamentul Sportiv, Editura Didactică şi Pedagogică, Bucureşti.
  4. Radu, I. D. & Ulici, G. (2003). Evaluarea si educarea psihomotricitatii, Editura Fundatiei Humanitas.
  5. Verza, E. & Verza F. E. (2011). Tratat de Psihopedagogie Speciala. Editura Universitatii din Bucuresti.

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