Home » News » Parenting » Link Between Socialization & Motor Skills in Autistic Kids

Link Between Socialization & Motor Skills in Autistic Kids

Link between Socialization and Motor Skills in Autistic Kids Autistic children with better motor skills are also more adept with socializing and communicating.

Findings from a new study of toddlers and preschoolers with autism add to the growing evidence of a link between autism and motor skill deficits.

For the study, the research team tested 233 children ages 14 to 49 months diagnosed with autism.

“Even at this early age, we are already seeing motor skills mapping on to their social and communicative skills,” said lead author Megan MacDonald, Ph.D. MacDonald, an assistant professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State University, is an expert on the movement skills of children with autism spectrum disorder.

“Motor skills are embedded in everything we do, and for too long they have been studied separately from social and communication skills in children with autism,” said MacDonald.

Developing motor skills is crucial for children and can also help develop better social skills.

MacDonald said in one study, 12-year-olds with autism were performing physically at the same level as a 6-year-old.

“So they do have some motor skills, and they kind of sneak through the system,” she said.

“But we have to wonder about the social implications of a 12-year-old who is running like a much younger child. So that quality piece is missing, and the motor skill deficit gets bigger as they age.”

In MacDonald’s study, children who tested higher for motor skills were also better at “daily living skills,” such as talking, playing, walking, and requesting things from their parents.

“We can teach motor skills and intervene at young ages,” MacDonald said. “Motor skills and autism have been separated for too long. This gives us another avenue to consider for early interventions.”

Ideally programs in adaptive physical education focus on both the motor skill development and communicative side.

Unfortunately, because autism spectrum disorder is a disability that impacts social skills so dramatically, the motor skill deficit tends to be pushed aside.

“We don’t quite understand how this link works, but we know it’s there,” she said. “We know that those children can sit up, walk, play and run seem to also have better communication skills.”

The research is published in the journal Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Source: Oregon State University

Link Between Socialization & Motor Skills in Autistic Kids

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Link Between Socialization & Motor Skills in Autistic Kids. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 5, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 12 Sep 2013)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.