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Abnormalities of joint mobility and gait in children with autism spectrum disorders

  • Maya Shetreat-Klein
    Affiliations
    The Division of Child Neurology of the Saul R. Korey, Department of Neurology, USA
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  • Shlomo Shinnar
    Affiliations
    The Division of Child Neurology of the Saul R. Korey, Department of Neurology, USA

    The Department of Pediatrics, USA

    The Epilepsy Monitoring Unit of Montefiore Medical Center, USA
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  • Isabelle Rapin
    Correspondence
    Corresponding author at: Kennedy 807, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, 1300 Morris Pare Avenue, Bronx NY 10461, USA. Tel.: +1 718 430 2478; fax: +1 718 430 8786.
    Affiliations
    The Division of Child Neurology of the Saul R. Korey, Department of Neurology, USA

    The Department of Pediatrics, USA

    The Rose F. Kennedy Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx NY 10461, USA
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      Abstract

      Aims: Abnormalities of gross motor function in children with autism are well known to clinicians but have not received much empirical documentation and, with the exception of stereotypies, are not among its diagnostic criteria. We recorded the characteristics of gait and prevalence of toe walking, the range of passive joint mobility, and age at walking in children with DSM IV autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and in age- and gender-matched typically developing peers (mean age 4 years 6 months, range 22 months–10 years 9 months). Methods: We evaluated maximum range of mobility at the elbow, wrist, metacarpo–phalangeal, and ankle joints and videoed children walking and running. Two neurologists blind to diagnosis independently scored features of gait clinically. Results: Children with ASDs had significantly greater joint mobility (p < .002), more gait abnormalities (p < .0001), and on average walked 1.6 months later than their non-autistic peers. Interpretation: This study indicates that attention should be directed to motor abnormalities as well as sociability, communication, and restricted and repetitive behaviors in individuals with ASDs. Motor deficits add to children’s other handicaps. They indicate that ASDs affect a broader range of central nervous system circuitry than often appreciated.

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