Can Early Childhood Motor Developmental Delay be an Indicator of a Future Autism Spectrum Disorder Diagnosis?

Author(s): Kochav-Lev Mooly*, Bennett-Back Odeya, Lotan Meir, Stein-Zamir Chen

Purpose: This study assessed whether Motor Developmental Delay (MDD) can be regarded as an indicator of ASD.

Methods: Retrospective cohort study. The study's population included 240,299 children from Israel, born between 2011 and 2017. MDD definition was based on at least one recorded developmental physiotherapy visit before age two years. Association of MDD, demographic and health characteristics and later diagnosis of ASD were evaluated.

Results: MDD was significantly more frequent in children subsequently diagnosed with ASD. Additional characteristics associated with ASD were male gender and a sibling with ASD. The average age of ASD diagnosis in children with MDD was 7 months younger than those without MDD.

Conclusions: An in-depth examination of communication skills within the MDD population is recommended, especially when associated with male babies, siblings with ASD, premature birth, and low birth weight. Appropriate training of developmental physiotherapists should aim to identify suspicious early indications of ASD.

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