Motor Skill Differences in Autism Spectrum Disorder: a Clinically Focused Review

Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2021 Aug 13;23(10):64. doi: 10.1007/s11920-021-01280-6.


Purpose of review: This review synthesizes recent, clinically relevant findings on the scope, significance, and centrality of motor skill differences in autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Recent findings: Motor challenges in ASD are pervasive, clinically meaningful, and highly underrecognized, with up to 87% of the autistic population affected but only a small percentage receiving motor-focused clinical care. Across development, motor differences are associated with both core autism symptoms and broader functioning, though the precise nature of those associations and the specificity of motor profiles to ASD remain unestablished. Findings suggest that motor difficulties in ASD are quantifiable and treatable, and that detection and intervention efforts targeting motor function may also positively influence social communication. Recent evidence supports a need for explicit recognition of motor impairment within the diagnostic framework of ASD as a clinical specifier. Motor differences in ASD warrant greater clinical attention and routine incorporation into screening, evaluation, and treatment planning.

Keywords: Autism; Early detection; Motor behavior; Motor development; Motor intervention; Motor skill.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder* / diagnosis
  • Autistic Disorder*
  • Communication
  • Humans
  • Motor Skills