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

Brain Dev. 2014 Feb;36(2):91-6. doi: 10.1016/j.braindev.2012.02.005. Epub 2012 Mar 7.


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 4years 6months, range 22months-10years 9months).

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 1.6months 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.

Keywords: Abnormal gait; Autism spectrum disorders; Hypotonia; Passive joint mobility; Toe walking.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / diagnosis
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / physiopathology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Gait / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Joints / abnormalities*
  • Male
  • Movement Disorders / complications
  • Movement Disorders / diagnosis
  • Movement Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Prevalence