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The severity and nature of motor impairment in Asperger's syndrome: a comparison with Specific Developmental Disorder of Motor Function

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Background: The aims of this study were to measure objectively the extent and severity of motor impairment in children with Asperger's syndrome and to determine whether the motor difficulties experienced by such children differed in any way from those classified as having a Specific Developmental Disorder of Motor Function (SDD-MF). Criteria derived from ICD 10-R were used to identify 11 children with Asperger's syndrome and a matched group of 9 children with a Specific Developmental Disorder of Motor Function. Children in both groups were required to have a verbal IQ of 80 or greater on the WISC IIIR. Method: The Autism Diagnostic Interview (Revised; Lord, Rutter, & LeCouteur, 1994) was used to identify features of AS in the first group and to exclude them in the latter. The Movement Assessment Battery for Children ( Henderson & Sugden, 1992) provided a standardised test of motor impairment. A Gesture Test based on that by Cermak, Coster, and Drake (1980) was used to assess the child's ability to mime the use of familiar tools and to imitate meaningless sequences of movements. Results: All the children with Asperger's syndrome turned out to meet our criterion for a diagnosis of motor impairment, five of the six most severely motor impaired children in the whole study being from this group. Performance of the Asperger group was also slightly poorer on the Gesture Test. The profile of performance on each test was examined in detail but no evidence of group differences in the pattern of impairment was found. Conclusions: This study is consistent with others suggesting a high prevalence of clumsiness in Asperger's syndrome. Our findings also attest to the widespread prevalence of motor impairment in developmental disorders and the problems such co-morbidity poses for attempts to posit discrete and functionally coherent impairments underlying distinct syndromes.
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Keywords: Asperger's syndrome; classification; developmental coordination disorder; gesture; motor coordination; specific developmental disorder of motor function

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Guy's Hospital, London, UK, 2: Institute of Education, University of London, UK, 3: Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine at Charing Cross Hospital, London, UK, 4: University of Surrey Roehampton, UK

Publication date: July 1, 2002

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