Autistic children with better motor skills more adept at socializing

In a new study looking at toddlers and preschoolers with autism, researchers found that children with better motor skills were more adept at socializing and communicating.

Published online today in the journal Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, this study adds to the growing evidence of the important link between autism and motor skill deficits.

Lead author Megan MacDonald is an assistant professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State University. She is an expert on the movement skills of with autism spectrum disorder.

Researchers tested 233 children ages 14 to 49 months diagnosed with autism.

"Even at this early age, we are already seeing mapping on to their social and communicative skills," MacDonald said. "Motor skills are embedded in everything we do, and for too long they have been studied separately from social and communication skills in children with autism."

Developing motor skills is crucial for children and can also help develop better social skills. MacDonald said in one study, 12-year-olds with autism were performing physically at the same level as a 6-year-old.

"So they do have some motor skills, and they kind of sneak through the system," she said. "But we have to wonder about the of a 12-year-old who is running like a much younger child. So that quality piece is missing, and the motor skill deficit gets bigger as they age."

In MacDonald's study, children who tested higher for motor skills were also better at "daily living skills," such as talking, playing, walking, and requesting things from their parents.

"We can teach motor skills and intervene at young ages," MacDonald said. "Motor skills and autism have been separated for too long. This gives us another avenue to consider for early interventions."

MacDonald said some programs run by experts in adaptive physical education focus on both the motor skill development and communicative side. She said because is a disability that impacts social skills so dramatically, the motor skill deficit tends to be pushed aside.

"We don't quite understand how this link works, but we know it's there," she said. "We know that those children can sit up, walk, play and run seem to also have better .

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Children with delayed motor skills struggle more socially

Jul 01, 2013

(Medical Xpress)—Studies have shown that children with autism often struggle socially and now new research suggests that a corresponding lack of motor skills – including catching and throwing – may further contribute ...

APA: iPad use in classroom ups communication in ASD

Aug 01, 2013

(HealthDay)—Use of handheld touch devices in classrooms may be beneficial for enhancing communication skills among children with autism spectrum disorders, according to a study presented at the annual meeting ...

Autism affects motor skills, study indicates

Feb 15, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- Children with autism often have problems developing motor skills, such as running, throwing a ball or even learning how to write. But scientists have not known whether those difficulties ...

Recommended for you

A link between Jacobsen syndrome and autism

Sep 15, 2014

(Medical Xpress)—A rare genetic disorder known as Jacobsen syndrome has been linked with autism, according to a recent joint investigation by researchers at San Diego State University and the University ...

Sex hormones may play a part in autism

Sep 08, 2014

Higher rates of Autism Spectrum Disorders in males than females may be related to changes in the brain's estrogen signalling, according to research published in the open access journal Molecular Autism.

Planning a better future for people with autism

Aug 27, 2014

In the world of special education, transition is the move from school to adult life. For most of us that move can be awkward, but for people with disabilities—particularly autism—it is especially complex.

User comments