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Limited infant motor skills tied to autism in family, study says

Babies born into families with a high risk of developing autism spectrum disorders are more likely to have limited motor skills in early infancy, according to a new study.
Natalie Crofts, KSL Modified: June 18, 2014 at 11:16 am •  Published: June 18, 2014
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BALTIMORE — Babies born into families with a high risk of developing autism spectrum disorders are more likely to have limited motor skills in early infancy, according to a new study.

Compared to low-risk infants of the same age, 6-month-old infants who have a high risk of developing ASD showed signs of reduced grasping and other fine motor skills, according to a study from the Kennedy Krieger Institute. The infants who were determined to be “high risk” were those with a familial history of ASD.

“The results suggest that subtle lags in object exploration-related motor skills in early infancy may present an ASD endophenotype — a heritable characteristic that may have genetic relation to ASD without predicting a full diagnosis — and further our understanding of the genes involved in the disorder,” a statement from the institute reads.

The findings may help improve researchers' understanding of ASD and impact future research, according to the statement.

Both low-risk and high-risk babies performed within the expected range when tested for early learning skills, but high-risk babies showed “subtle signs” of reduced grasping, researchers wrote. The differences were present even in high-risk infants who were not diagnosed with ASD by the time they turned 3 years old.

Researchers said they plan to conduct more studies to further investigate the relationship between autism and motor skills in infants. The study was published in the journal Child Development.