Shelley Mulligan, Barbara Prudhomme White; Sensory and Motor Behaviors of Infant Siblings of Children With and Without Autism. Am J Occup Ther 2012;66(5):556–566. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2012.004077
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We compared the sensory and motor behaviors of typically developing infants with those of infant siblings of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), who are considered high risk for the disorder, to explore potential sensory and motor markers for use in early diagnosis of ASD. We compared frequencies of sensory and motor behaviors during 10-min, videotaped, infant–mother play sessions and during 5 min of spoon-feeding between groups of 12-mo-old infants. Data from standardized measures of development, sensory processing, and behaviors commonly associated with ASD were also analyzed descriptively for the high-risk group. The results indicated that high-risk infants demonstrated fewer movement transitions (t  = −2.4, p = .03) and less object manipulation (t  = −2.4, p = .03) than low-risk infants. The sensory and motor differences found between typical and high-risk infants suggest that early screenings for ASD should include the examination of sensory and motor behaviors.
Occupational therapists and other team members who are involved in the initial diagnosis of children with ASD should be aware of reliable and valid evaluation and screening tools, receive training in their use, and apply them in the diagnostic process.
Occupational therapists are and should continue to be involved as valuable contributors in the evaluation process for determining ASD diagnoses, in light of their expertise in the areas of occupational performance, sensory processing, play behaviors, and motor development of infants and toddlers.
Contextual observations of mother–infant play should be considered for inclusion in the diagnostic process. Not only do they have the potential to elicit sensory and motor behaviors that may be important for diagnostic purposes, but they can enhance our understanding of how such behaviors may influence a young child’s ability to play, learn, and perform daily activities.
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