Motor Skills in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

A special issue of Journal of Clinical Medicine (ISSN 2077-0383). This special issue belongs to the section "Mental Health".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (24 January 2022) | Viewed by 18560

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
1. Department of Child Psychiatry and Psychopharmacology, IRCCS Stella Maris Foundation, 56018 Pisa, Italy
2. University of Pisa, Pisa, Italy
Interests: autism; neurodevelopmental disorders; psychology; psychotherapy; neurosciences; precision medicine
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Guest Editor
Institute of Neuroscience—National Research Council of Italy (IN-CNR), Parma, Italy
Interests: autism; neurodevelopmental disorders; neurophysiology; motor development

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

In recent years, the number of diagnoses of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) has significantly increased. According to the DSM-V, ASDs are a heterogeneous set of neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by deficits in social communications and interaction plus the presence of restricted interests and repetitive behaviors.

Motor impairments have been widely reported in children with an ASD, but it remains unclear how they are distributed across the spectrum, and whether they are associated with the clinical specifiers of autism (i.e., intelligence, language, comorbidity, and associated conditions). The development of proper motor skills is an essential component of communication and social engagement, and motor dysfunctions may influence social development, interfering with opportunities for social interactions and learning. Moreover, it has been suggested that the impairment in motor skills in children with an ASD may also impact upon their understanding of others’ actions. Thus, investigating the nature of motor problems in ASDs may offer a new perspective on diagnostic and treatment approaches.

This Special Issue of the Journal of Clinical Medicine aims to present a collection of studies detailing the most recent advances in the field of autism research. Authors are invited to submit cutting-edge research and reviews that address a broad range of topics related to ASD and Motor Skills, including motor development, screening, early diagnosis, evidence-based intervention, new technologies (e.g., eye-tracking, EEG, MR, wearable sensors, VR, robotic research), sensory profiles, language, cognitive priors, action predictors, and biomarkers. In particular, we aim to present studies in autism research that may have a significant translational effect on the field of clinical services.

Dr. Antonio Narzisi
Dr. Maddalena Fabbri-Destro
Guest Editors

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Keywords

  • autism
  • motor skills
  • diagnosis
  • intervention

Published Papers (4 papers)

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Research

10 pages, 660 KiB  
Article
Sensory Profiles in School-Aged Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Descriptive Study Using the Sensory Processing Measure-2 (SPM-2)
by Antonio Narzisi, Maddalena Fabbri-Destro, Giulia Crifaci, Stefano Scatigna, Federica Maugeri, Stefano Berloffa, Pamela Fantozzi, Adriana Prato, Rosy Muccio, Elena Valente, Valentina Viglione, Edoardo Pecchini, Susanna Pelagatti, Renata Rizzo, Annarita Milone, Rita Barone and Gabriele Masi
J. Clin. Med. 2022, 11(6), 1668; https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm11061668 - 17 Mar 2022
Cited by 9 | Viewed by 5172
Abstract
Background: Sensory reactivity is considered one of the diagnostic criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and has been associated with poorer functional outcomes, behavioral difficulties, and autism severity across the lifespan. The characterization of the sensory processing in ASD has thus become crucial [...] Read more.
Background: Sensory reactivity is considered one of the diagnostic criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and has been associated with poorer functional outcomes, behavioral difficulties, and autism severity across the lifespan. The characterization of the sensory processing in ASD has thus become crucial to identify the sensory and motor features influencing the development of personal autonomy. Objectives: The present study has two aims: (1) to compare the sensory processing between school-aged children with ASD and typically developing peers (TD); (2) to evaluate whether, within the ASD sample, the cognitive level and reported sensory symptoms explain the scores exhibited at the Sensory Processing Measure (SPM-2). Methods: The SPM-2 test was administered to the parents of 105 children with ASD and 70 TD. The ASD group was further subdivided into two groups, namely high and low functioning based on their cognitive level (High Functioning (HF), IQ > 80; Low Functioning (LF), IQ < 80). Results: ASD children exhibited higher scores throughout the SPM-2 total score and its multiple subscales. Within ASD, while HF and LF children did not differ in terms of the SPM-2 total score, a significant difference was found for the hearing, social participation, and balance and motion subscales. Conclusions: Aside from classical knowledge that the ASD population suffers from sensory processing disorders, we revealed that different sensory patterns are associated with high or low cognitive functioning. Beyond its neurobiological interest, such knowledge may be of fundamental importance for individualizing psychoeducational interventions in preschool- and school-aged children and later developmental stages. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Motor Skills in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders)
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11 pages, 1021 KiB  
Article
Improvements in Swim Skills in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder Following a 5-Day Adapted Learn-To-Swim Program (iCan Swim)
by Emily E. Munn, Lisa Ruby and Melissa M. Pangelinan
J. Clin. Med. 2021, 10(23), 5557; https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm10235557 - 26 Nov 2021
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 2670
Abstract
Drowning is one of the leading causes of death in children and teenagers. Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are at increased risk for drowning. Improvements in swim skills have been observed in children with ASD participating in learn-to-swim programs. However, it is [...] Read more.
Drowning is one of the leading causes of death in children and teenagers. Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are at increased risk for drowning. Improvements in swim skills have been observed in children with ASD participating in learn-to-swim programs. However, it is unclear if age, co-occurring conditions, and/or the dose of practice influence swim skills in this population. To this end, a secondary data analysis of iCan Swim program data was conducted to determine the efficacy of the 5-day adapted learn-to-swim program for a cohort of children with ASD ages 3–16 years (n = 86). Participant swim level was evaluated at the start and end of the program. Linear mixed-effects regression was used to examine the effects of Time (start/end), Age, Dose of Swim Practice (i.e., total time–time out of the water), and ADHD status on the overall swim level. Participants significantly increased the swim level from the beginning to the end of the program (B = 0.63, 95% CI = 0.52–0.74), and participants with ASD and co-occurring ADHD had greater swim levels regardless of Time than those without ADHD (B = 0.45, 95% CI = 0.05–0.84). Overall, iCan Swim is effective in improving the swim skills of children and teenagers with ASD. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Motor Skills in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders)
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15 pages, 1223 KiB  
Article
Is Smiling the Key? Machine Learning Analytics Detect Subtle Patterns in Micro-Expressions of Infants with ASD
by Gianpaolo Alvari, Cesare Furlanello and Paola Venuti
J. Clin. Med. 2021, 10(8), 1776; https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm10081776 - 19 Apr 2021
Cited by 13 | Viewed by 3420
Abstract
Time is a key factor to consider in Autism Spectrum Disorder. Detecting the condition as early as possible is crucial in terms of treatment success. Despite advances in the literature, it is still difficult to identify early markers able to effectively forecast the [...] Read more.
Time is a key factor to consider in Autism Spectrum Disorder. Detecting the condition as early as possible is crucial in terms of treatment success. Despite advances in the literature, it is still difficult to identify early markers able to effectively forecast the manifestation of symptoms. Artificial intelligence (AI) provides effective alternatives for behavior screening. To this end, we investigated facial expressions in 18 autistic and 15 typical infants during their first ecological interactions, between 6 and 12 months of age. We employed Openface, an AI-based software designed to systematically analyze facial micro-movements in images in order to extract the subtle dynamics of Social Smiles in unconstrained Home Videos. Reduced frequency and activation intensity of Social Smiles was computed for children with autism. Machine Learning models enabled us to map facial behavior consistently, exposing early differences hardly detectable by non-expert naked eye. This outcome contributes to enhancing the potential of AI as a supportive tool for the clinical framework. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Motor Skills in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders)
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10 pages, 253 KiB  
Communication
Effectiveness of Equine-Assisted Activities and Therapies for Improving Adaptive Behavior and Motor Function in Autism Spectrum Disorder
by Leonardo Zoccante, Michele Marconi, Marco Luigi Ciceri, Silvia Gagliardoni, Luigi Alberto Gozzi, Sara Sabaini, Gianfranco Di Gennaro and Marco Colizzi
J. Clin. Med. 2021, 10(8), 1726; https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm10081726 - 16 Apr 2021
Cited by 12 | Viewed by 6102
Abstract
Equine-assisted activities and therapies (EAAT) have been suggested to improve adaptive behavior, and possibly motor function, in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This study investigated the effects of EAAT on adaptive behavior and motor function in 15 children with ASD (13 males) aged 7–15 [...] Read more.
Equine-assisted activities and therapies (EAAT) have been suggested to improve adaptive behavior, and possibly motor function, in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This study investigated the effects of EAAT on adaptive behavior and motor function in 15 children with ASD (13 males) aged 7–15 years as well as the impact of EAAT on the magnitude of stress in the parent–child system and the evolution in the child interaction with both the trained therapist and the therapeutic animal through the 20 weekly sessions of EAAT. EAAT were associated with greater adaptive behavior and coordination (all p ≤ 0.01) as well as a progressive improvement in the child’s abilities to respond to the increasing complexity of such form of positive behavioral support (all p < 0.001). However, EAAT did not prove to be effective in reducing parental distress. Collectively, preliminary evidence presented here may have important public health implications and gives reason to hope that EAAT could possibly be an effective option in ASD, warranting further investigation of its potential benefits in clinical trials among larger samples. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Motor Skills in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders)
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