Motor development in children at risk of autism: A follow-up study of infant siblings

H. C. Leonard, R. Bedford, T. Charman, M. Elsabbagh, M. H. Johnson, E. L. Hill, Simon Baron-Cohen, P. Bolton, Susie Chandler, H. Garwood, K. Holmboe, K. Hudry

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Abstract

Recently, evidence of poor or atypical motor skills in autism spectrum disorder has led some to argue that motor impairment is a core feature of the condition. The current study uses a longitudinal prospective design to assess the development of motor skills of 20 children at increased risk of developing autism spectrum disorder, who were recruited and tested at 9 and 40 months of age, on the basis of having an older sibling diagnosed with the condition. All children completed a range of motor, face processing, IQ and diagnostic assessments at a follow-up visit (aged 5–7 years), providing a detailed profile of development in this group from a number of standardised, parental report and experimental measures. A higher proportion of children than expected demonstrated motor difficulties at the follow-up visit and those highlighted by parental report as having poor motor skills as infants and toddlers were also more likely to have lower face processing scores and elevated autism-related social symptoms at 5–7 years, despite having similar IQ levels. These data lend support to the argument that early motor difficulties may be a risk factor for later motor impairment as well as differences in social communication and cognition, traits that are related to autism spectrum disorder.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)281-291
Number of pages11
JournalAutism
Volume18
Issue number3
Early online date7 Oct 2013
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2014

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