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New Tool Provides Potential Screening and Treatment

By Chelsea E. Toledo, M.A. on August 9, 2013


Background: Most assessments for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are based on a person’s behavior. However, children with ASD are known to display unpredictable patterns of physical movement—a possible target for more personalized autism screening and therapy.


What’s New: On July 24, 2013, the journal Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience featured a set of studies exploring physical movements as a target for assessing and treating ASD. In the first study, the researchers assessed how 34 individuals with ASD and 44 typically developing control subjects followed cues to point at objects on a screen over a series of trials. They found disruptions in the progress of individuals with ASD as trials ensued. In the second study, the researchers tested the ability of 25 individuals with ASD and 8 control subjects to hold an arm within a desired area. They found that, when provided a reward—the chance to watch an enjoyable video, autistic subject’s movements became more predictable, suggesting that self-discovery tasks can improve anticipatory behavior.


Why it’s important: Fifteen years ago, Teitelbaum et al.  showed movement disturbances as integral component of autism that could be clearly detected as early as 4 – 6 month old infants. These two new studies could bring the value of movement analysis in evaluating ASD to the forefront.

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