Stability of motor problems in young children with or at risk of autism spectrum disorders, ADHD, and or developmental coordination disorder


  • This article is commented on by Rinehart and McGinley, p. 697 of this issue.

Hilde Van Waelvelde at Rehabilitation Sciences and Physiotherapy, Arteveldehogeschool and Ghent University, Campus Heymans 2 B3, De Pintelaan 185, 9000 Ghent, Belgium. E-mail:


Aim  The aim of this study was to investigate the stability of motor problems in a clinically referred sample of children with, or at risk of, autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), attention-deficit–hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and/or developmental coordination disorder (DCD).

Method  Participants were 49 children (39 males, 10 females; mean age 5y 6mo, SD 10mo) with various developmental problems, a Movement Assessment Battery for Children (M-ABC) score on or below the 15th centile, and an IQ of 70 or more. Sixteen children were at risk of developing ADHD, 15 children had a diagnosis of, or were at risk of developing ASD, and 18 children had neither diagnosis. Children were reassessed 2 to 3 years later.

Results  At follow-up (mean age 7y 11mo; SD 1y), the mean M-ABC score was significantly increased, and in 22 children was no longer below the 15th centile. A general linear model to compare the difference in M-ABC scores in the three groups of children demonstrated a significant difference between groups (p=0.013), with the age at the initial assessment as a significant covariate (p=0.052). The group of children with or at risk of ASD showed less improvement in motor performance.

Interpretation  Motor problems among preschool age children are not always stable, but appear to be so in most children with ASDs.