Autism and Problems with Motor Skills

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Autism is correctly described as a disorder causing problems with social and communication skills.  Many children with autism however, also struggle with deficits in their motor skills.  Various studies acknowledge the connection between autism and problems with motor skills.

Now, a new study examined whether there was a relationship between the severity of motor skill problems and the degree of deficits in social and communication skills.  The study, done at Oregon State University, tested the functional motors skills of 35 children with autism.  The researchers, led by Megan McDonald, found that the children who had weaker motor skills also had greater deficits in their social and communication skills.

"So much of the focus on autism has been on developing social skills, and that is very crucial," said MacDonald. "Yet we also know there is a link between motor skills and autism, and how deficits in these physical skills play into this larger picture is not clearly understood."  One theory is that children who have poor motor skills avoid sports and other physical activities thereby also missing the social aspects of these activities.

MacDonald noted that additional research in this area was required but it was important to remember that motor skills can be taught. "We have programs and interventions that we know work, and have measurable impact on motor skill development," said MacDonald. "We need to make sure we identify the issue and get a child help as early as possible."

The study, The Relationship of Motor Skills and Social Communicative Skills in School-Aged Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder, is published in Adaptive Physical Activity Quarterly.

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