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

87 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

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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