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Gait function in newly diagnosed children with autism: Cerebellar and basal ganglia related motor disorder.

Rinehart NJ, et al. Dev Med Child Neurol. 2006.


We investigated gait in newly diagnosed children with autism. From our previous study with 6- to 14-year-olds, we hypothesized that motor symptoms indicative of basal ganglia and cerebellar dysfunction would appear across the developmental trajectory of autism. Two groups were recruited: children with autism (eight males, three females; mean age 5 y 10 mo [SD 9 mo]; range 4 y 4 mo-6 y 9 mo) and a comparison group of typically developing children (eight males, three females; mean age 5 y 9 mo [SD 1 y 1 mo]; range 4 y 3 mo-7 y 2 mo). The GAITRite Walkway was used to gather data from average gait and intra-walk measurements. Experienced physiotherapists analyzed gait qualitatively. Groups were matched according to age, height, weight, and IQ; although not statistically significant, IQ was lower in the group with autism. Spatiotemporal gait data for children with autism were compatible with findings from patients with cerebellar ataxia: specifically, greater difficulty walking along a straight line, and the coexistence of variable stride length and duration. Children with autism were also less coordinated and rated as more variable and inconsistent (i.e. reduced smoothness) relative to the comparison group. Postural abnormalities in the head and trunk suggest additional involvement of the fronto-striatal basal ganglia region. Abnormal gait features are stable across key developmental periods and are, therefore, promising for use in clinical screening for autism.


16978461 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

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