Movement characteristics of children with autism spectrum disorder



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Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are characterized by a triad of clinical features which include lack of social interaction and communication, behavioral stereotypes, and a range of cognitive deficits. The presence of motor deficits has often been observed in the children with autism who are described as being clumsy or awkward in their movements. There is, however, considerable ambiguity related to universality, severity and exact nature of these motor difficulties. The objective of this study was to assess the movement characteristics of children with ASD and to place their motor dysfunction in the context of their functional independence in the performance of daily living skills. Seventeen children diagnosed with Autism or PDD-NOS in the age range of 5-11 years were recruited and assessed using two standardized tests of motor function; the Bruininks-Oseretsky Test of Motor Proficiency - Second Edition (BOT-2; Bruininks 2005) and the Movement Assessment Battery for children (M ABC-2; Henderson, Sugden, & Barnett 2007) and a third assessment of functional independence in children WeeFIM (WeeFIM System, 1999). Most of the children showed movement characteristics that ranged from mild to severe impairment, though two children showed no motor difficulties. However, when compared, as a group, to age matched norms, it was noted that the motor skill performance of children with ASD was noticeably poorer. Marked impairments were observed in tasks that required manual dexterity, upper limb coordination, strength and agility. Children with ASD also showed greater functional disability compared to age-matched norms, however, their degree of motor dysfunction by itself did not correlate with their performance of daily living skills. This study provides invaluable insights into movement characteristics of children on the autism spectrum and highlights the need for including motor assessment as a routine investigation for children with autism.