What's missing in autism spectrum disorder motor assessments?

Rujuta B. Wilson, James T. McCracken, Nicole J. Rinehart, Shafali S. Jeste

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Motor delays and impairments in autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are extremely common and often herald the emergence of pervasive atypical development. Clinical accounts of ASD and standardized measures of motor function have identified deficits in multiple motor domains. However, literature describing frequently used standardized motor assessments in children with ASD, their test properties, and their limitations are sparse. Methods: We systematically reviewed the literature to identify the most frequently used standardized motor assessments used to evaluate children with ASD from infancy to early childhood. All assessments included were required to possess reference norms, evaluate more than one motor domain, and have undergone some degree of validation. Results: We identified six frequently used standardized measures of motor function per our inclusion and exclusion criteria. We investigated and described in detail the psychometric properties of these assessments, their utility for use with children with ASD, and their individual and overall strengths and limitations. The global strengths of these assessments are the ability to identify early development delays and differences in fine and gross motor function in children with ASD. Global limitations of these studies are lack of validation in individuals with ASD and scoring systems that often miss specific and subtle abnormalities. Conclusions: Standardized assessments of motor function have provided valuable information on motor impairments in ASD. However, significant limitations remain in the use of these measures in children with ASD. Moving forward, it is imperative that standardized measures of motor function receive greater validation testing in children with ASD to assess their potential application given the clinical heterogeneity of this condition. In addition, utilizing quantitative measures of motor function should allow for evaluation and comparison of individuals with ASD across the lifespan with varying cognitive and behavioral abilities.

Original languageEnglish
Article number33
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 13 Dec 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Motor assessments
  • Motor function
  • Quantitative motor measures

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