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Study Shows Poorer Movement Skills Detected,
in Children Considered At-Risk for Autism

September 7, 2011

A study presented at the British Psychological Society's Developmental Section Conference found that infants who are at risk for an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis showed poorer movement skills than infants at low risk for ASD. Researchers conducted the study using 54 at-risk infants and 50 low-risk infants. The at-risk infants had an older sibling with an ASD diagnosis and the low-risk infants did not have a sibling with ASD.

All of the infants were assessed based on a variety of motor skills tests as well as reports from parents. Analysis of the data showed that the at-risk infants had developed significantly poorer motor skills than the infants in the low-risk group. Furthermore, this disparity in motor skills between the at-risk group and the low-risk group was observed in infants as early as seven months old and still evident in children who are 24 months old.

The importance of the study lies in the early detection of poor motor skills, which can negatively impact language, social and cognitive development even if an at-risk child is not diagnosed with ASD. The presenter of the study, Dr. Hayley Leonard adds, "this poorer motor development could impact the development of social skills, school achievement and longer-term employment outcomes."

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