Motor development and delay: advances in assessment of motor skills in autism spectrum disorders

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Abstract

Purpose of review

Motor impairments in neurodevelopmental disorders, specifically autism spectrum disorder (ASD), are prevalent and pervasive. Moreover, motor impairments may be the first sign of atypical development in ASD and likely contribute to abnormalities in social communication. However, measurement of motor function in ASD has lagged behind other behavioral phenotyping. Quantitative and neurodiagnostic measures of motor function can help identify specific motor impairments in ASD and the underlying neural mechanisms that might be implicated. These findings can serve as markers of early diagnosis, clinical stratification, and treatment targets.

Recent findings

Here, we briefly review recent studies on the importance of motor function to other developmental domains in ASD. We then highlight studies that have applied quantitative and neurodiagnostic measures to better measure motor impairments in ASD and the neural mechanisms that may contribute to these abnormalities.

Summary

Information from advanced quantitative and neurodiagnostic methods of motor function contribute to a better understanding of the specific and subtle motor impairments in ASD, and the relationship of motor function to language and social development. Greater utilization of these methods can assist with early diagnosis and development of targeted interventions. However, there remains a need to utilize these approaches in children with neurodevelopmental disorders across a developmental trajectory and with varying levels of cognitive function.

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