Subtle oculomotor difficulties and their relation to motor skill in children with autism spectrum disorder

Sumner, Emma J; Hutton, Samuel B. and Hill, Elisabeth L.. 2021. Subtle oculomotor difficulties and their relation to motor skill in children with autism spectrum disorder. Advances in Neurodevelopmental Disorders, 5(2), pp. 144-155. ISSN 2366-7532 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Objectives Sensorimotor difficulties are often reported in autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Visual and motor skills are linked in that the processing of visual information can help in guiding motor movements. The present study investigated oculomotor skill and its relation to general motor skill in ASD by providing a comprehensive assessment of oculomotor control.

Methods Fifty children (25 ASD; 25 typically developing [TD]), aged 7–10 years, completed a motor assessment (comprising fine and gross motor tasks) and oculomotor battery (comprising fixation, smooth pursuit, prosaccade and antisaccade tasks).

Results No group differences were found for antisaccade errors, nor saccade latencies in prosaccade and antisaccade tasks, but increased saccade amplitude variability was observed in children with ASD, suggesting a reduced consistency in saccade accuracy. Children with ASD also demonstrated poorer fixation stability than their peers and spent less time in pursuit of a moving target. Motor skill was not correlated with saccade amplitude variability. However, regression analyses revealed that motor skill (and not diagnosis) accounted for variance in fixation performance and fast smooth pursuit.

Conclusions The findings highlight the importance of considering oculomotor paradigms to inform the functional impact of neuropathologies in ASD and also assessing the presentation of co-occurring difficulties to further our understanding of ASD. Avenues for future research are suggested.

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This study was funded by The Leverhulme Trust (RPG-2012-742).


autism, fixation, motor skill, oculomotor, saccades, smooth pursuit

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24 October 2020Accepted
4 November 2020Published Online
June 2021Published

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Date Deposited:

14 Feb 2022 09:25

Last Modified:

14 Feb 2022 09:25

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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