Autism, Not Hereditary Traits, Affects Motor Skills

Researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have discovered that autism, not hereditary traits, is the cause of impaired motor skills in those with Autism.

The study was conducted by studying 144 children from 67 different families where at least one child had a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder with at least one biological sibling in the same age group. Children were tested by observing them performing various tasks like placing pegs in a pegboard, cutting with scissors, copying forms, imitating movements, running, throwing a ball and doing push-ups.

Of the children, 83% of children with autism spectrum disorder had below average motor skills, compared to their average-ranging non-autistic siblings. Siblings who both had autism shared similar scores, while siblings with one autistic and one not had very different scores.

“The data suggests that genes play a role in the motor impairments observed in those with autism spectrum disorder,” says lead author Claudia List Hilton, PhD, assistant professor in occupational therapy and an instructor in psychiatry.. “This is further evidence that autism spectrum disorder is a largely genetic disorder.”

Motor skills impairment can not only hinder long-term development, but hurt the child’s self-esteem and confidence as well. This evidence can help researchers develop new ways to treat autism and provide new ideas on intervention strategies to help autistic children improve their skills and promote their motor development.