Motor Deficits in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A cross-syndrome study.

Martin McPhillips, Jennifer Finlay, Susanne Bejerot, Mary Hanley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

77 Citations (Scopus)


Recent research suggests that children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) experience some level of motor difficulty, and that this may be associated with social communication skills. However, other studies show that children with language impairments, but without the social communication problems, are at risk of motor difficulties as well. The aim of the present study was to determine if children with ASD have syndrome specific motor deficits in comparison to children with specific language impairment (SLI). We used an independent groups design with three groups of children (8-10 years old) matched on age and nonverbal IQ; an ASD group, an SLI group, and a typically developing (TD) group. All of the children completed an individually administered, standardized motor assessment battery. We found that the TD group demonstrated significantly better motor skills than either the ASD or SLI groups. Detailed analyses of the motor subtests revealed that the ASD and SLI groups had very similar motor profiles across a range of fine and gross motor skills, with one exception. We conclude that children with ASD, and SLI, are at risk of clinically significant motor deficits. However, future behavioural and neurological studies of motor skills in children with ASD should include an SLI comparison group in order to identify possible autism specific deficits.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)664-676
Number of pages13
JournalAutism Research
Issue number6
Early online date24 Sept 2014
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2014


  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Cross-syndrome
  • Motor deficit
  • Specific language impairment


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