Longitudinal development of language and fine motor skills is correlated, but not coupled, in a childhood atypical cohort

Autism. 2023 Jan;27(1):133-144. doi: 10.1177/13623613221086448. Epub 2022 Apr 26.


More and more members of the autistic community and the research field are moving away from the idea that there will be a single biological or cognitive explanation for autistic characteristics. However, little is known about the complex dynamic processes that could explain why early difficulties in the language and motor domain often go hand-in-hand. We here study how language and motor skills develop simultaneously in the British Autism Study of Infant Siblings cohort of infants, and compare the way they are linked between children with and without developmental delays. Our results suggest that improvements in one domain go hand-in-hand with improvements in the other in both groups and show no compelling evidence for group differences in how motor skills relate to language and vice versa. We did observe a larger diversity in motor and language skills at 6 months, and because we found the motor and language development to be tightly linked, this suggests that even very small early impairments can result in larger developmental delays in later childhood. Greater variability at baseline, combined with very strong correlations between the slopes, suggests that dynamic processes may amplify small differences between individuals at 6months to result into large individual differences in autism symptomatology at 36 months.

Keywords: language development; longitudinal cognitive dynamics; mutualistic coupling; structural equation modeling.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder* / psychology
  • Child
  • Child Development
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Language
  • Language Development
  • Motor Skills*