Prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) can cause fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) and associated neurodevelopmental impairments. It is uncertain which types of fine motor skills are most likely to be affected after PAE or which assessment tools are most appropriate to use in FASD diagnostic assessments. This systematic review examined which types of fine motor skills are impaired in children with PAE or FASD; which fine motor assessments are appropriate for FASD diagnosis; and whether fine motor impairments are evident at both “low” and “high” PAE levels.
A systematic review of relevant databases was undertaken using key terms. Relevant studies were extracted using a standardized form, and methodological quality was rated using a critical appraisal tool.
Twenty-four studies met inclusion criteria. Complex fine motor skills, such as visual-motor integration, were more frequently impaired than basic fine motor skills, such as grip strength. Assessment tools that specifically assessed fine motor skills more consistently identified impairments than those which assessed fine motor skills as part of a generalized neurodevelopmental assessment. Fine motor impairments were associated with “moderate” to “high” PAE levels. Few studies reported fine motor skills of children with “low” PAE levels, so the effect of lower PAE levels on fine motor skills remains uncertain.
Comprehensive assessment of a range of fine motor skills in children with PAE is important to ensure an accurate FASD diagnosis and develop appropriate therapeutic interventions for children with PAE-related fine motor impairments.