Title: Associations among daily living skills, motor, and sensory difficulties in children with and without autism
Legend: The goal of this study was to determine how motor skills relate to daily living skills in children 6-10 years of age. We assessed this in a group of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a group without autism, and an intermediate phenotype group (i.e., children with a family history of ASD or a diagnosis of a condition related to ASD). Even after accounting for features like IQ, we found that motor skills predicted daily living skills in children, but only in the children who were at or below the 31st percentile of motor skills. This finding suggests that those with motor skills below that of 1/3 of their same-aged peers may be most likely to have daily living skills that relate to their motor skills. Second, we found that motor skills were most associated with occupations of dressing (i.e., buttoning large or small buttons), bathing/showering (i.e., bathing and drying oneself, or washing and drying one’s own hair), education (e.g., calendar and coin skills), health management (i.e., caring for cuts and using a thermometer), cleaning/organization (e.g., putting away possessions, sweeping/mopping/vacuuming, using household products, and cleaning rooms), meal preparation and clean-up (e.g., clearing table and breakable items, using simple appliances and the microwave, washing dishes, and preparing basic foods), and safety (i.e., looking both ways before crossing the street and obeying curfews). Given that motor and sensory features often track together, a secondary goal (not pictured) was to determine if motor skills, sensory features, or both better predicted daily living skills. We found that combined sensory and motor assessment better predicted daily living skills than either motor or sensory assessment alone. This finding suggests that including both motor and sensory assessment will significantly improve an estimate of a child’s daily living skills, which may be important for clinical decision making. Overall, these findings help clarify the relationship among motor skills, sensory features, and daily living tasks and reveal which daily living tasks may be most impacted by motor challenges in children.
Citation: Travers, B. G., Kissinger, L., Klans, N., Reynolds, A., Taylor, D., Ausderau, K., Skaletski, E. C., & Brown, J. (accepted). Associations among daily living skills, motor, and sensory difficulties in children with and without autism. American Journal of Occupational Therapy.
Abstract: Importance: Motor and sensory challenges are commonly reported in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and have been linked to challenges with daily living skills (DLS). However, to best inform clinical intervention, greater specificity is needed to understand how sensory and motor challenges relate to DLS. Objective: We aimed to evaluate the relationship between combined sensory and motor scores and DLS performance in children with and without ASD and to explore associations between motor scores and specific DLS item performance. Design: Descriptive design. Setting: University research lab. Participants: Participants included 101 children with ASD, typical development, or with a family history or diagnosis related to ASD (i.e., “intermediate” group) (ages 6-10 years). All participants communicated verbally at the time of testing. Intervention: None. Outcome and Measures: The study utilized parent-report measures of DLS and sensory features, and standardized assessments of motor performance. Results: Findings indicated a strong relationship between motor difficulties and all domains of DLS. At the item level, motor skills were associated with occupations of dressing, bathing, health management, cleaning up/organization, meal preparation/clean-up, education, and safety. Combined sensory and motor measures better predicted DLS than motor or sensory alone. Conclusions and Relevance: Children with motor and sensory challenges are likely to experience particular challenges with a diversity of occupations, which is important given the prevalence of motor and sensory challenges in children with ASD and other neurodevelopmental conditions. Therapeutic interventions that account for or address these motor challenges and associated sensory features are likely to further enhance DLS.
About the Lab: The Motor Brain and Development Lab is dedicated to advancing knowledge about motor development, brain development, and independent living skills to promote and enhance quality of life for individuals with and without developmental disorders. Our current projects specialize in examining motor and brain development in individuals on the autism spectrum.