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Autism, Motor Skills and Vision

Recently, there have been more studies on autism and motor skill development. Many children with autism exhibit delays in motor skill acquisition. Some research has shown deficits in the following areas:

1. dynamic balance and diadochokinesis (rapid pronation/supination of forearms)
2. fine motor skills with regards to timed movements
3. increased variability to perform simple movements
4. performing timed tasks
5. slower initiation of movements.

In addition, research has shown a correlation between the degree of motor deficit and the degree of social withdrawal and severity of autism. There is limited research on eye hand coordination and autism.

In a recent study, 13 young people with autism were compared to 15 young people without autism in tasks that used vision and proprioception to land on one of two targets. In this study, young people with autism exhibited longer planning and execution of the manual reaching movements. There was great variability of the eye hand movements in the young people with autism. If the task required greater visual proprioceptive integration the amount of time required to perform the movement was increased.

Do you find these trends to hold true in your daily practice of therapy? For example, do you find variability in the day to day execution of motor skills in children with autism? What about the correlation between the degree of motor deficit and the severity of autism? How do you take these factors into account when setting goals?

More information on autism and proprioception.

Reference: Glazebrook, C, Gonzalez, D. Hansen, S., Elliott, D. (2009) The Role of Vision for Online Control of Manual Aiming Movements in Persons with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Autism 13 (4): 411-433.