Motor Coordination and Autism

I recently re-read a post by Musings of an Aspie: Is there a Link Between ASD Motor Skill Deficits and Social Communication Difficulties? which she posted a year ago. She started out intending to look at ASD and dyspraxia – which is a developmental disorder that seems to involve problems with motor coordination… and sensory issues, and executive order functions. In fact, apparently autism and dyspraxia have so much of an overlap that people can be frequently misdiagnosed with one when they really have the other, or they tend to often end up as co-morbid (co-occuring) diagnoses.

Part of the reason this was interesting to me to re-read is because Unstrange Mind mentioned to me that it was possible that my problems with my heat allergy and the difficulties I’ve encountered over the last year and half or so with my thermosensory regulation could be because of dyspraxia (she has both autism and dyspraxia, and that’s one of her dyspraxic symptoms: thermoregulation issues).

But what prompts this post tonight is the fact that when I was talking with my mom about things yesterday (Friday) at dinner, she mentioned that as a child, I had a lot of gross motor coordination problems. That it was more than just my complete inability to catch things thrown at me, to throw things to others, and kick things to others. Apparently I regularly had balance issues, used to trip over nothing, and was regularly clumsy. I hadn’t actually realized that. (Well, I had a bit of an idea about balance issues, but not the rest of it.) It was rather interesting to hear, in fact.

Particularly as back over the last two years when people were discussing what the criteria for ASD in the DSM-5 should be, the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN) was suggesting that problems with motor coordination skills be included in the ASD diagnostic criteria. (One example they actually used was catching balls, and I went, “Oh, yes, that’s so me.”) (That wasn’t added, but if you’ve read Unstrange Mind’s analysis of the DSM-5 official criteria, you’ll see that a number of the concerns that the ASAN raises in that document were addressed in some fashion or another.)

I’ve never had any real issues with fine motor coordination – no problems with handwriting, and I loved Legos and Tinker Toys. But to learn that I had those issues with gross motor coordination was rather interesting.

Anyway, I just thought I’d write a post on that. (Yes, I know I have lots of other posts, especially regarding communication, due… but this was what occurred to me. Though expect some more communication posts in the next month or so!)

I would welcome your thoughts on this!

😉 tagAught

3 thoughts on “Motor Coordination and Autism

  1. Unstrange Mind

    I might be wrong, but I think handwriting is technically mid-range motor control, between gross motor, like catching a ball, and fine motor, like threading a needle. One reason I got “in trouble” for my bad handwriting (yes, I actually got repeatedly punished, as if yelling could make me write better) was that I was brilliant with embroidery, crochet, macramé, weaving, etc.

    I even remember my mother bragging to me once: I was sick and she went to a nice department store and bought me a little craft kit designed for grown-ups with a metal frame, different colors and sizes of wool, warp threads, wooden beads. It was a kit for weaving a lovely and sophisticated little piece of art. My mother told me the sales person tried to talk her out of it when she realized it was for me. She said, “that kit is much too difficult for a child.” And mom told me she responded, “not *my* child!” And, sure enough, I completed it and t was beautiful.

    But that talent with textile arts just made my teachers and parents more angry when they saw how bad my handwriting was by comparison. But handwriting is not as much about what your fingers are doing. It is a whole-arm kind of thing. I can tell, because even today my entire arm burns, all the way to the elbow, when I try to hand write more than a few sentences.

    I have recently taken up drawing and I am finding that the movements are different enough from handwriting that I’m able to do well, but even with drawing, I can’t make a picture straight through. I make some strokes, pause for a while, make some strokes, etc. some pauses are longer, others are shorter. It’s like my arm has no stamina. My fingers could go forever, but my arms wear out so fast. When I had long hair, I was hard to braid because my fingers were fine, but holding my arms up to work on my head like that was agony. I often had to stop to rest in the middle of French braiding my hair and I hated braiding my hair with anyone watching because the would invariably are disparaging comments during my resting.

    So, yeah, I have great fine motor control, too, and lousy gross control (as I’ve written before, I fall down if I try to mount a bicycle with a cross-bar. I have to have a step-through frame or I can’t ride safely.) But I also have problems in that mid range and I think dysgraphia can be cause by fine problems, mid-range problems, or both.

    How is your proprioception? Mine is good so long as I keep my eyes open. If I close my eyes and try to walk, I fall down. I have to have a handle in the shower because when I close my eyes to rinse my air and face, I will fall down if I’m not holding on to something, especially because the falling water is extra disorienting to me. I use my eyes to help me know where I am in space and when I lose that input, it’s really difficult to remain upright. I was wondering how many others of us ave proprioceptive issues.

  2. autisticook

    My dyspraxic symptoms are mild, mostly when I’m not paying attention. Walking into doors and chairs and tables, falling down the stairs, or losing my balance. When I concentrate, it doesn’t happen. Hence no problems with mounting a bicycle with a cross-bar, but definitely problems with dismounting without thinking about it. 🙂

  3. autisticook

    Your comment about childhood reminded me of something my mother said, by the way. One of the questions on my childhood symptoms questionnaire was “whenever your child fell, would he [sic] say ‘me fall down’ or ‘him fall down'” (probably looking for pronoun difficulties). And my mother said immediately, “You never fell, you were extremely careful not to fall!” I think I’ve read something about that elsewhere, that autistic children tend to be either exaggeratedly careful when moving, or heedlessly reckless (at least according to observers).


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