• Sarah McKim Thomas

An Overlooked Barrier to Communication?

A recent study of over 2000 autistic children in Australia found that more than a third of them had movement challenges, even though only a fraction of those had an official diagnosis for these motor difficulties.

What do motor abilities have to do with communication? Well, all of these ways of communicating depend on motor skills:

  • Gestures like pointing or waving

  • Selecting symbols on a touch-screen

  • Coordinating mouth and vocal fold movements to produce speech sounds

  • Initiating a social interaction using any of the above methods

The article also mentioned echolalia and repetitive movements -- commonly cited features of autism -- specifically:

"Autistic children who repeat words or movements tend to have lower motor scores than other autistic children, the team found. The finding suggests that repetitive behaviors and motor development are linked in some way."

How might our instruction, therapy, and support for autistic individuals be different if we take motor challenges into account?

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