Thursday, February 23, 2017

Early motor skills development predicting language development in autism

Hayley C. Leonard, Rachael Bedford, Andrew Pickles, Elisabeth L. Hill, the BASIS Team.   Predicting the rate of language development from early motor skills in at-risk infants who develop autism spectrum disorder.   Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders. Volumes 13–14, May 2015, Pages 15–24.

• Motor and social skills are closely related in typical and atypical development.
• The link between motor and language skills was examined in infants at-risk of ASD.
• Motor skills predicted rate of language development in infants who developed ASD.
• This relationship was evident for expressive but not receptive language.
• Research in ASD should focus on interactions between these systems over development.

The aim of the current paper was to use data from a prospective study to assess the impact of early motor skills on the rate of language development in infants with an older sibling with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), who are at increased risk of developing ASD themselves. Infants were tested prospectively at four points (7, 14, 24 and 36 months), and were assessed for ASD at the last visit. Latent growth curve analysis was used to model rate of language development using the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales between 7–36 months in infants at high and low familial risk for ASD. Motor scores from the Mullen Scales of Early Learning at 7 months were used as predictors of language growth. Gross Motor scores predicted the subsequent rate of expressive, but not receptive, language development in at-risk siblings who were later diagnosed with ASD. Although the pattern was similar for fine motor skills, the relationship did not reach significance. It seems that early motor delay impacts the rate of development of expressive language, and this may be of particular importance to infants at increased risk of developing ASD.

Leonard HC, Bedford R, Charman T, Elsabbagh M, Johnson MH, Hill EL; BASIS
team.. Motor development in children at risk of autism: a follow-up study of
infant siblings. Autism. 2014 Apr;18(3):281-91.


Recently, evidence of poor or atypical motor skills in autism spectrum disorder has led some to argue that motor impairment is a core feature of the condition. The current study uses a longitudinal prospective design to assess the development of motor skills of 20 children at increased risk of developing autism spectrum disorder, who were recruited and tested at 9 and 40 months of age, on the basis of having an older sibling diagnosed with the condition. All children completed a range of motor, face processing, IQ and diagnostic assessments at a follow-up visit (aged 5-7 years), providing a detailed profile of development in this group from a number of standardised, parental report and experimental measures. A higher proportion of children than expected demonstrated motor difficulties at the follow-up visit and those highlighted by parental report as having poor motor skills as infants and toddlers were also more likely to have lower face processing scores and elevated autism-related social symptoms at 5-7 years, despite having similar IQ levels. These data lend support to the argument that early motor difficulties may be a risk factor for later motor impairment as well as differences in social communication and cognition, traits that are related to autism spectrum disorder.

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