Thursday, March 19, 2009

Motor Skills and ASD

Here are two interesting research studies on autism and motor skills both from Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology. One study reports that out of 101 children with ASD (wide range of ASD and IQ), 79% exhibits movement impairments as reported on the Movement Assessment Battery for Children. Children with childhood autism and IQ of less than 70 exhibits more movement impairments than children with IQ's over 70 and broader autism.(1)

The second study appears to further explain the increased movement impairments in children with childhood autism. Using electroencephalography, researchers compared movement related potentials (MRP's) between children with high functioning autism, children with Asperger's and a healthy control group. The results showed abnormal MRP's in the children with autism but not Asperger's. The researchers concluded that this study supports a "neurobiological separateness" of autism and Asperger's. (2)

I would guess most therapists who work with children on the autism spectrum would have experienced these results in day to day practice with regards to motor skill abilities in children with autism and Asperger's. The interesting part of the research for me is the movement related potentials. These abnormal responses can indicate an interruption at the basal ganglia, thalamus, and supplementary motor area. Remember what the basal ganglia and the thalamus do? The basal ganglia helps to determine the intensity of motor activity. The thalamus prioritizes sensory information and maintains alertness. So the next question is can we infer anything from this study regarding sensory differences in children with autism? Something to think about.

1. DIDO GREEN, TONY CHARMAN, ANDREW PICKLES, SUSIE CHANDLER, TOM LOUCAS, EMILY SIMONOFF, GILLIAN BAIRD (2009) Impairment in movement skills of children with autistic spectrum disorders Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology 51:4 (311-316)
DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-8749.2008.03242.x
2. PETER G ENTICOTT, JOHN L BRADSHAW, ROBERT IANSEK, BRUCE J TONGE, NICOLE J RINEHART (2009) Electrophysiological signs of supplementary-motor-area deficits in high-functioning autism but not Asperger syndrome: an examination of internally cued movement-related potentials Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology Published online on March 11, 2009. DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-8749.2009.03270.x

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