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Motor Deficits Reported In Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder

1038 words - 5 pages

Motor deficits are often reported in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Children with ASD frequently display clumsy gait, imbalance, and poor manual dexterity and coordination (Dowell, Mahone, & Mostofsky, 2009). Difficulty with skilled motor gestures, referred to as apraxia or dyspraxia, is also observed in and is actually one of the most consistently reported motor problems in children with ASD (Dziuk, Gidley Larson, Apostu, Mahone, Decnkla, & Mostofsky, 2007). Yet it is unclear whether children with ASD have a form of apraxia/dyspraxia, or whether their motor deficits can be explained by problems with basic motor skills. Several studies have compared children with ASD to typically developing children and have found that the children with ASD show poorer praxis control than their peers, even when accounting for variables such as basic motor skills, age, and IQ (Dowell et al., 2009; Dziuk et al., 2007; Ham, Bartolo, Corley, Rajendran, Szabo, & Swanson, 2010). Some may try to extend these finding of praxis impairments in general motor skills to account for the difficulty, and in some cases inability, of children with ASD to develop articulate speech, positing that these children have Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS). However, research has shown that speech is domain specific (Shriberg, Paul, Black, & van Santen, 2011), and thus we must treat motor apraxia separately from CAS. Overall, the literature reports that although children with ASD often have articulation disorders and unusual prosody, their speech and prosody impairments are not consistent with the motor speech impairments that define CAS (McCleery, Tully, Slevc, & Schreibman, 2006; Shriberg et al., 2011; Shriberg, Paul, McSweeny, Klin, Cohen, & Volkmar, 2001).
Apraxia (or dyspraxia) is a deficit in the processing and performance of learned skilled movements that cannot be explained by sensory or motor deficits. Much of the literature makes a distinction between the two, identifying apraxia as an acquired disorder and dyspraxia as a developmental disorder (e.g., Dowell et al., 2009; Ham et al., 2011). For the purposes of this paper, apraxia and dyspraxia were considered synonymous and will be referred to simply as apraxia for the rest of the paper.
When compared to typically developing peers, children with ASD show significantly poorer motor skills as well as poorer praxis. Dowell et al. (2009) and Dzuik et al., (2007) both examined basic motor skills using the Physical and Neurological Examination of Subtle Signs (PANESS), and determined that children with ASD demonstrate significantly slower timed repetitive movements than the typically developing controls. Further, using a modified version of the Florida Apraxia Battery as a praxis examination, Dowell et al. (2009) found that children with ASD commit a higher number of errors and overall perform significantly worse than the typically developing controls on all three sections of the examination – responding to a verbal...

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