Postural control in children with autism

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This dissertation investigated how balance and postural stability in children with autism spectrum disorders differed from age matched children in three related studies. The clinical balance assessment, the Multi-Directional Reach Test (MDRT) was used as a tool to measure maximum reach distance in the forward, backward, right and left directions in standing with the feet stationary. Test-Retest Reliability was determined to be acceptable in typically developing children with this quick and useful tool for assessing dynamic standing balance. Significant correlations were found between maximum reach and height, weight and age of the typical subjects indicating that as children grow older and taller, they can reach further from their base of support without a loss of balance. The difference seen between gender in typically developing children was likely due to slightly older average age of females in the study rather than a true gender difference. The MDRT was used to determine if there was a difference between two children with autism spectrum disorder and their age, height and weight matched peers. Indeed, the typically developing children outperformed their autistic counterparts in all directions measured. Because postural control is a foundation for the development of fine and gross motor skills for engagement in occupation including daily living skills and school related fine motor skills such as writing, it is important that occupational therapists consider dynamic balance as part of our assessment when we work with children on the autism spectrum for whom this area is often impaired.

Postural control, Autism, Children MDRT