Children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who possess more advanced fine and gross motor skills may have improved outcomes for adaptive behavior and socialization skills.
A new study released online Friday to be published in the November 2013 issue of Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders looked at 233 children between the ages of 14 and 49 months diagnosed with ASD, PDD-NOS and other non-ASD developmental delays. The researchers measured performance on various scales which targeted specific skills, including fine and gross motor, daily living, adaptive social and adaptive communicative skills.
While some of the hallmarks of ASD include language delays and social deficits, oftentimes children on the autism spectrum present with motor skill deficits. These deficits can range from fine motor, which includes the ability to properly grip a writing or feeding utensil, to gross motor, which includes the ability to engage in physical activities such as running and jumping.
The results of the study indicated that performance in the domain of fine motor skills significantly predicted all adaptive behavior skills, such as self-care and social skills. Performance in the gross motor skills domain was predictive of daily living skills, which includes playing, walking, and talking. Children with overall weaker motor skills displayed greater deficits in adaptive behavior skills.
The fine and gross motor skills are significantly related to adaptive behavior skills in young children with autism spectrum disorder. There is more to focus on and new avenues to explore in the realm of discovering how to implement early intervention and rehabilitation for young children with autism and motor skills need to be a part of the discussion.
Programs, such as adaptive physical education and occupational therapy, can be implemented to aid children with ASD improve fine and gross motor skills. These interventions can help close the gap between chronological and functional age. That is, they can help improve the motor skill repertoire of a 13-year old who is physically performing at the level of a 5-year old. Improvement in the domain of motor skills may help reduce social stigma associated with low performance, such that, attempts at socialization with "neuro-typical" children will be more successful.
While the link between the various domains of deficit present in ASD is unclear, what is clear is that socialization and language delays must be addressed in tandem with motor skill delays.
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