Motor skills in autism: A missed opportunity

BY ASHLEY DE MARCHENA, CASEY ZAMPELLA: For Complete Post, Click Here…

Clinicians and scientists have described motor skill differences since the earliest conceptualizations of autism, yet these differences are widely viewed as peripheral to the condition’s core traits. In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5), for instance, atypical gait and clumsiness are included only as ‘associated features,’ independent of the primary phenotype.

Accordingly, autism theories, assessments and interventions have tended to gloss over the extent to which motor skill differences affect autistic people. A burgeoning literature, however, suggests that broad motor differences are more relevant than has historically been appreciated for understanding, assessing and supporting people on the spectrum. 

We recently reviewed the most current research on motor skills in autism, with a focus on the evidence most relevant for clinical care. We concluded that motor skill differences are a meaningful and highly underutilized clinical target for autistic people of all ages. They should also be included in the DSM as a clinical specifier for autism. Such representation would signal the need to give targeted attention to motor functioning, and it would provide a clear framework for how motor differences fit into the broader diagnostic picture.

Leave a Reply