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December 1993

Locomotion of Autistic Adults

Author Affiliations

From the Human Motor Control Section, Medical Neurology Branch, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (Drs Hallett and Lebiedowska and Ms Thomas), and the Biomechanics Laboratory, Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Warren G. Magnuson Clinical Center, National Institutes of Health (Dr Stanhope), Bethesda, Md; the Department of Neurology, The Johns Hopkins Medical School, Baltimore, Md (Dr Denckla); and the Child Psychiatry Branch, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Md (Dr Rumsey).

Arch Neurol. 1993;50(12):1304-1308. doi:10.1001/archneur.1993.00540120019007

Objective:  To assess gait in patients with autism.

Design:  Clinical and physiologic assessment.

Setting:  Research hospital

Patients and Subjects:  Five adults with autism and five healthy, age-matched control subjects.

Main Outcome Measure(s):  Clinical and biomechanical assessment.

Results:  Clinical assessment showed mild clumsiness in four patients and upper limb posturing during gait in three patients. The velocity of gait, step length, cadence, step width, stance time, and vertical ground reaction forces were normal in all patients. The only significant abnormality was decreased range of motion of the ankle. Some patients exhibited slightly decreased knee flexion in early stance. Clinically, the gait appeared to be irregular in three patients, but the variability was not significantly increased.

Conclusions:  The findings in patients with autism indicate a nonspecific, neurological disturbance involving the motor system. The normal velocity of gait and the normal step length argue against a parkinsonian-type disturbance, whereas the clinical picture suggests a disturbance of the cerebellum.

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