Evidence suggests that children and adults diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) exhibit difficulties with postural control. Retrospective video studies of infants later diagnosed with ASD indicate that infants who eventually receive an ASD diagnosis exhibit delays in postural development. This study investigates early posture development prospectively and longitudinally in 22 infants at heightened biological risk for ASD (HR) and 18 infants with no such risk (Low Risk; LR). Four HR infants received an autism diagnosis (AD infants) at 36 months. Infants were videotaped at home at 6, 9, 12, and 14 months during everyday activities and play. All infant postures were coded and classified as to whether or not they were infant-initiated. Relative to LR infants, HR infants were slower to develop skill in sitting and standing postures. AD infants exhibited substantial delays in the emergence of more advanced postures and initiated fewer posture changes. Because posture advances create opportunities for infants to interact with objects and people in new and progressively more sophisticated ways, postural delays may have cascading effects on opportunities for infant exploration and learning. These effects may be greater for infants with ASD, for whom posture delays are more significant.
Keywords: Autism Spectrum Disorders; early identification; infant siblings; motor development; posture.