Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder Show Impairments During Dynamic Versus Static Grip-force Tracking

Daniel E. Lidstone, Faria Z. Miah, Brach Poston, Julie F. Beasley, Stewart H. Mostofsky, Janet S. Dufek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Impairments in visuomotor integration (VMI) may contribute to anomalous development of motor, as well as social-communicative, skills in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). However, it is relatively unknown whether VMI impairments are specific to children with ASD versus children with other neurodevelopmental disorders. As such, this study addressed the hypothesis that children with ASD, but not those in other clinical control groups, would show greater deficits in high-VMI dynamic grip-force tracking versus low-VMI static presentation. Seventy-nine children, aged 7–17 years, participated: 22 children with ASD, 17 children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), 18 children with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and 22 typically developing (TD) children. Two grip-force tracking conditions were examined: (1) a low-VMI condition (static visual target) and (2) a high-VMI condition (dynamic visual target). Low-frequency force oscillations <0.5 Hz during the visuomotor task were also examined. Two-way ANCOVAs were used to examine group x VMI and group x frequency effects (α = 0.05). Children with ASD showed a difficulty, above that seen in the ADHD/FASD groups, tracking dynamic, but not static, visual stimuli as compared to TD children. Low-frequency force oscillations <0.25 Hz were also significantly greater in the ASD versus the TD group. This study is the first to report VMI deficits during dynamic versus static grip-force tracking and increased proportion of force oscillations <0.25 Hz during visuomotor tracking in the ASD versus TD group. Dynamic VMI impairments may be a core psychophysiologic feature that could contribute to impaired development of motor and social-communicative skills in ASD. Lay Summary: Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) show difficulties using dynamic visual stimuli to guide their own movements compared to their typically developing (TD) peers. It is unknown whether children without a diagnosis of ASD, but with other neurological disorders, show similar difficulties processing dynamic visual stimuli. In this study, we showed that children with ASD show a difficulty using dynamic, but not static, visual stimuli to guide movement that may explain atypical development of motor and social skills.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2177-2189
Number of pages13
JournalAutism Research
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • autism spectrum disorder
  • grip
  • neurodevelopmental disorders
  • psychophysiologic
  • visuomotor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Genetics(clinical)


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