A Comparison of the Motor Skills of Young People in a Youth Detention Centre with Diagnosed Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, Prenatal Alcohol Exposure, and a Reference Population

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Bernadette Safe, MCHR
Annette Joosten, PhD
Carol Bower, PhD
Carmen Condon, MPH
Rochelle Watkins, PhD
Raewyn Mutch, FRACP
Roslyn Giglia, PhD


Materials and Methods: Participants completed the Movement Assessment Battery for Children-2 (MABC-2), Beery-Buktenica Developmental Test of Visual-Motor Integration (VMI) including its associated subtests, and a handwriting screen.

Results: Ninety-nine young people (n=47 PAE; n= 36 FASD) with a mean age of 16 years were assessed. There was an association between a FASD diagnosis and lower scores on the VMI (p=0.005). Participants with FASD and PAE had higher impairment levels on the VMI compared to the No-PAE group. Mean MABC-2 scores were within age expected levels across all groups. More fine motor skill difficulties were observed compared to gross motor skill difficulties. Handwriting skills were below age expected levels in 84% of participants. Those in the PAE and FASD groups had more difficulty with letter formations and spatial awareness.

Conclusions: Visual motor integration and handwriting skills were often impaired in this population. Lower VMI scores were more prevalent in participants diagnosed with FASD, and therefore should be routinely assessed as part of a diagnostic assessment. Assessment of fine and gross motor skills enabled recommendations for intervention support that address deficits and build upon strengths. Further research is needed to confirm these results using larger populations, and to investigate possible confounding factors associated with high VMI and handwriting difficulties in this population.


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Safe, B., Joosten, A., Bower, C., Condon, C., Watkins, R., Mutch, R., & Giglia, R. (2018). A Comparison of the Motor Skills of Young People in a Youth Detention Centre with Diagnosed Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, Prenatal Alcohol Exposure, and a Reference Population. Journal of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Risk and Prevention, 1(1), e17-e32. https://doi.org/10.22374/jfasrp.v1i1.5
Author Biographies

Annette Joosten, PhD, Curtin University of Technology

Associate Professor

Carol Bower, PhD, Telethon Kids Institute, University of Western Australia


Raewyn Mutch, FRACP, Telethon Kids Institute and the School of Paediatrics and Child Health, The University of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia. Child and Adolescent Health Service, Department of Health Western Australia, West Perth, Western Australia.

Clinical Associate Professor


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