Washington: The fine motor skills autistic children exhibit while eating, writing or even buttoning their shirt, might seem trivial but can act as a strong predictor to identify if they are at risk of developing lasting language disabilities, suggest a new study.
The association between fine motor skills and autistic child's language development was found in a study published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.
In an American sample of language-delayed children with autism, researchers found that nearly half had extremely delayed fine motor skills.
Of this group, 77.5 per cent who had extremely delayed motor skills continued to have language disabilities in later childhood or young adulthood. By contrast, 69.6 per cent of children who demonstrated less impaired fine motor skills overcame their language delays by late childhood or young adulthood.
In the second study of Canadian children with autism, researchers found that those with extremely delayed fine motor skills made fewer gains in expressive language.
"Language development is complex. Many interventions for young children with autism focus on language intervention or social skills," said lead researcher Vanessa Bal, the Karmazin and Lillard Chair in Adult Autism at Rutgers University-New Brunswick's Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology.
The researchers analyzed data from existing studies that used different standardized developmental tests to assess fine motor skills through tasks that require children to manipulate small objects, such as picking up Cheerios or stacking small blocks.
The first analyses focused on 86 children with autism recruited to an American study from before their second birthday to age 19. The replication study was conducted using data from a Canadian study that followed 181 children with autism from two to four years of age, until age 10.