Early motor abilities in infants at heightened versus low risk for ASD: A Baby Siblings Research Consortium (BSRC) study

Jana M. Iverson, Frederick Shic, Carla A. Wall, Katarzyna Chawarska, Suzanne Curtin, Annette Estes, Judith M. Gardner, Ted Hutman, Rebecca J. Landa, April R. Levin, Klaus Libertus, Daniel S. Messinger, Charles A. Nelson, Sally Ozonoff, Lori Ann R. Sacrey, Kelly Sheperd, Wendy L. Stone, Helen B. Tager-Flusberg, Jason J. Wolff, Nurit YirmiyaGregory S. Young

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Research has identified early appearing differences in gross and fine motor abilities in infants at heightened risk (HR) for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) because they are the younger siblings of children with ASD, and it suggests that such differences may be especially apparent among those HR infants themselves eventually diagnosed with ASD. The present study examined overall and item-level performance on the gross (GM) and fine motor (FM) subscales of the Mullen Scales of Early Learning (MSEL) administered at 6 months to a large, geographically diverse sample of HR infants with varying developmental outcomes (ASD, elevated ADOS without ASD, low ADOS without ASD) and to infants with low ASD risk (low risk [LR]). We also explored whether motor abilities assessed at 6 months predicted ASD symptom severity at 36 months. FM (but not GM) performance distinguished all 3 HR groups from LR infants with the weakest performance observed in the HR-Elevated ADOS children, who exhibited multiple differences from both LR and other HR infants in both gross and fine motor skills. Finally, 6-month FM (but not GM) scores significant predicted 36-month ADOS severity scores in the HR group; but no evidence was found of specific early appearing motor signs associated with a later ASD diagnosis. Vulnerabilities in infants' fine and gross motor skills may have significant consequences for later development not only in the motor domain but in other domains.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)69-80
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of abnormal psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Autism Speaks and Autism Science Foundation provided support for the creation and maintenance of the Baby Siblings Research Consortium (BSRC) database. Data collection, analyses, and article preparation were supported by the National Institutes of Health (Bookheimer P50 HD55784; Katarzyna Chawarska R01 MH087554; Jana M. Iverson R01 HD54979; Rebecca J. Landa R01 MH059630; Daniel S. Messinger R01 GM105004; Sally Ozonoff R01 MH068398; Piven HD055741; Frederick Shic K01 MH104739; Sigman U54 MH68172; Wendy L. Stone/Daniel S. Messinger R01 HD057284; Helen B. Tager-Flusberg/Charles A. Nelson R21 DC08637, R01 DC10290; Vouloumanos/Curtin R01 HD072018), Autism Speaks (Piven, Tager-Flusberg/Charles A. Nelson), The Simons Foundation (Piven, Helen B. Tager-Flusberg/Charles A. Nelson), and the Alberta Centre for Child, Family, and Community Research Grant 060909-TOP (Suzanne Curtin). Portions of the research were presented at the 2015 International Meeting for Autism Research, Salt Lake City, Utah. We thank Robert H. Wozniak for extensive comments on previous versions of the article and the families and infants who participated in the research.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 American Psychological Association.


  • ASD
  • early identification
  • fine motor
  • gross motor
  • infant siblings
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors
  • Child, Preschool
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Siblings/psychology
  • Female
  • Motor Skills
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder/diagnosis

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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