Researchers at Oregon State University tested 233 autistic children between the ages of 14 to 49 months, and found that the children who had better motor skills were more adept at socializing and communicating.
Lead author of the study, Megan MacDonald, said, “Even at this early age, we already seeing motor skills mapping on to their social and communicative skills. Motor skills are embedded in everything we do, and for too long they have been studied separately from social and communication skills in children with autism.” In one study, 12-year-olds with autism were performing physically at the same level as a 6-year-old.
Children who tested higher for motor skills were also better at ‘daily living skills,’ such as talking, playing, walking, and requesting things from their parents.
“We can teach motor skills and intervene at young ages,” MacDonald said. “Motor skills and autism have been separated for too long. This gives us another avenue to consider for early interventions.”
MacDonald said some programs run by experts in adaptive physical education focus on both the motor skill development and communicative side. Because autism spectrum disorder is a disability that impacts social skills so dramatically, the motor skill deficit tends to be pushed aside.
“We don’t quite understand how this links work, but we know it’s there. We know that those children can sit up, walk, play, and run seem to also have better communication skills.”