Gross Motor Impairment

Gross Motor Impairment and Its Relation to Social Skills in Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Systematic Review and Two Meta-Analyses

Findings in ROMBi Founder, Penny Georgiou's, work indicate possible connections between motor and social skills. Research material from people consistently undertaking structured handplay indicates a reduction of issues in both physical and social situations, including greater dexterity, reduced anxiety, and greater ease in social interactions. As part of an exploratory article earlier this year Penny explains:

"daily structured handplay, even if it is the same puzzle each day, gives our mind access to experiential impressions of coherent rigid-structures for building viable frames of reference for interfacing with daily life. Otherwise, we can only keep reiterating forms of thinking that don’t work for us.”

She adds that physical issues with motor dexterity are often exacerbated by social concerns, and anxiety affects dexterity,  as well as bringing strain and fatigue.  Taking up daily structured handplay, (eg, handheld puzzles) offers a stable structure as a starting point for framing our focus, which brings greater ease of dexterity in physical and social environments. We begin to steadily experience greater agency in what is happening in our life including increasing ability to respond creatively. Completing just one ROMBi puzzle a day improves body awareness;

  • Harmonisation in sensory processing;
  • Ability to distinguish between self and other’s awareness;
  • Spatial awareness and navigating with structure;
  • Organisational skills;
  • Improved discernment and language functions; (eg, naming bodily sensations or reading and acting on subtle cues)

All of the above have implications for bodily and social skills;

  • Calming through the ability to better assess proportionality of threat level;
  • Maintaining a sense of place and identity while transiting between different perspectives and environments.

Adults and children are taking up ROMBi for building organisation into their thinking and finding their capabilities increasing.  It is also helping parents in managing life’s day to day logistics and seeing new solutions for longstanding problems.

The development of children's gross motor skills affects how they perceive and engage with their social environment.

An article entitled, “Gross motor impairment and its relation to social skills in autism spectrum disorder: A systematic review and two meta-analyses” published in 2022 notes that according to “a rapidly expanding body of research on motor development in autism spectrum disorder (ASD), autistic people have impaired gross motor skills. However, it is still unclear whether gross motor skills are affected in ASD, when and for whom these abnormalities occur, and if motor and social deficits are connected due to significant heterogeneity among research. Research addressed these issues by combining findings from two distinct meta-analyses on gross motor skills in ASD. Data from 114 research representing 6,423 autistic and 2,941 neurotypical (NT) individuals were combined to assess gross motor abnormalities in ASD in comparison to NT controls.

The findings revealed a significant overall impairment in gross motor skills in ASD (Hedges' g = 1.04), which was evident at every level of the examined variables and was robust to methodological and phenotypic variance. However, moderation studies showed that this deficiency was most evident for movements of the upper extremities or the entire body, clinical assessment measures, and object control skills (i.e., ball skills). The second meta-analysis combined information from 21 research including 654 autistic people to examine whether gross motor and social skills are linked in ASD. The connection between gross motor and social skills in ASD was small but significant overall (r = 0.27). Overall, the findings are consistent with the hypothesis that the primary symptoms of ASD are related to motor impairments.”

We were interested to discover that there has been a recent surge in interest in children's gross motor skills how they are linked to significant disparities in how they perceive and engage with their social environment. Explore our blog articles and ROMBi founder, Penny's Quora content to discover ideas on the connections physical and social skills. 

View the full article: 

Gross Motor Impairment and Its Relation to Social Skills in Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Systematic Review and Two Meta-Analyses