Motor Development & Autism

Autism spectrum disorder is commonly thought of as a brain disorder in the areas of language, communication, and social behaviors. However, more research is surfacing about autism being more of a brain movement disorder. A new study from Oregon State University (OSU) conducted a study where they examine the relationship between the severity of ASD and motor skill deficiencies in young children with ASD.  Researcher and Assistant professor in OSU’s College of Public Heath and Human Sciences, supports that the findings from their study suggests that there should be a focus on developing a child’s motor or movement skills when treating children on the spectrum.  The earlier medical professionals are able to identify motor skill deficits, the more time therapists and parents have in working with their child to develop these skills.

The Anat Baniel Method is based on an understanding of autism as a brain movement disorder. Children with ASD typically have developmental delays in motor movement, which can sometimes be written off as clumsiness. Professor Macdonald found that very young children on the spectrum were about 6 months behind in motor skills such as running and jumping and almost a year behind in skills such as holding a spoon or small toys.

These delays in movement are caused by a disruption in the brain that slows down or prevents its ability to create new neurological connections. The brain is supposed to organize movement. Anat Baniel explains that we need to “awaken and support the brain’s ability to differentiate and create new connections and effective patterns,” and a major part of this is teaching the brain to perceive differences. For example, in working with a four year old autistic boy who kept wetting the bed, they realized that perhaps he couldn’t tell the difference between wet and dry since his diapers would absorb everything. They used a wet and dry face towel on different parts of his body and asked him whether it was wet or dry seemed to make all the difference as he stopped wetting his pants after that.

Anat Baniel has developed “The Nine Essentials” that are at the core of her neuromovement approach to treating autism. With neuromemovement, mind and body are thought of as one at all times. Many people may find it difficult to understand how physical movements can be beneficial for developing thought processes and vice versa, but her method has been shown to help brain functions that organize thinking, feeling, emotion, and action. The nine essentials allows for concrete and immediate ways to create new connections in the brain and help in many physical and cognitive aspects of life.

Anat Baniel will be presenting about Neuromovement at our upcoming ICare4Autism International Autism Conference!

For more info on the conference program and presentations, click here

Read more about the Baniel’s Nine Essentials here

Read more about Oregon State University’s Motor Skill study here