International Meeting for Autism Research: Gait Analysis In Autistic Young Adults Indicates Motor Disregulation

Gait Analysis In Autistic Young Adults Indicates Motor Disregulation

Friday, May 13, 2011
Elizabeth Ballroom E-F and Lirenta Foyer Level 2 (Manchester Grand Hyatt)
1:00 PM
M. Weiss1, M. F. Moran2, M. E. Parker3 and J. T. Foley4, (1)Fairfield University, Fairfield, CT, (2)College of Education & Health Professions, Sacred Heart University, Fairfield, CT, (3)Physical Therapy, Texas State University, San Marcos, TX, (4)Physical Education, State University of New York at Cortland, Cortland, NY
Background: Unusual patterns of movement have historically been a hallmark of ASD, where people who have this diagnosis may exhibit altered body posture, stereotypical or repetitive movement patterns, general clumsiness, and they often score worse on clinical assessments of motor performance (c.f., Leary & Hill, 1996). Despite a general recognition of these unusual movement patterns, there has been little explicit research on disorders of movement with individuals diagnosed with ASD. In the few studies of gait that have been reported, there have been mixed findings to whether aberrations have been found or not in this population and the nature of the few anomalies have varied (Vernazza-Martin, et al., 2005; Rinehart, et al, 2006). However, this research has been extremely limited in scope with a small number of peer reviewed journal articles, limited specificity in what aspects of gait have been studied, small sample sizes, narrow ranges of ages, and largely “observational” methods and data, rather than using contemporary technology typically found in the study of movement sciences. 

Objectives: This research aimed to determine how teenagers and young adults diagnosed with ASD compared to age-matched control participants in a variety of aspects of gait. Results of this study can: (1) further our understanding of the movement patterns demonstrated in this population and (2) provide a basis for a quantitative movement assessment tool that could be used to evaluate treatment efficacies.

Methods: Two groups were compared in gait patterns; individuals diagnosed with Low-Expressive-Language-Functioning ASD (n=1 female and 8 males), along with typically developing matched control participants (undergraduates at Sacred Heart Univeristy; n=2 females and 8 males). Participants were all between the ages of 16-years, 11-months to 22-years, 4-months. Gait analysis was conducted as participants walk across a pressure sensitive GAITRite Walkway system for 6 trials each.

Results: Several aspects of gait were found to be significantly different between the two groups including measures of: velocity (t=3.23, p<.009); cycle time (F=9.02, p<.005); stance percentage (F=3.48, p<.07); foot position vis-à-vis toe in-out position (F=23.83, p<.0001); heal off-on percentage (F=3.32, p<.077); support load (F=31.48, p<.0001) and support unload (F=29.35, p<.0001) times.  

Conclusions: Clear differences were found in a variety of aspects of gait between our ASD and control group participants. The widespread varieties and types of differences found not only depart from the patterns demonstrated by typically developing young adults, but they are also similar to aberrations found in individuals diagnosed with cerebellar ataxia (CA). These finding and comparable presentation to CA patients are consistent with prior identification of aberrations in the cerebellum in individuals diagnosed with ASD (Bauman & Kemper, 2005; Courchesne, et al., 2004).

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