A review of: ESPOSITO, G., VENUTI, P., MAESTRO, S., MURATORI, F. (2008). An exploration of symmetry in early autism spectrum disorders: Analysis of lying. Brain and Development DOI: 10.1016/j.braindev.2008.04.005

Many clinicians who conduct diagnostic assessments of children with suspected autism would tell you that there is something unique, yet difficult to describe, about how children with autism move. Parents often report also noticing something unique in their children’s movement, and that they’ve noticed these patterns since the time their children were babies. Consistent with these clinical observations, some researchers have examined the movement patterns of infants who would eventually be diagnosed with autism. In this article, a team from the University of Trento (Italy) and the Univeristy of Pisa (Italy), reported on a study looking at symmetry patterns in posture among infants participating in a longitudinal study of autism. The study include 18 children diagnosed with Autism via ADOS and ADI, 12 children with a diagnosis of non-autism developmental delays, and 18 typically developing children. The parents of these children were asked to provide video tapes of their children when they were infants. Sections of the videos showing the babies awake and lying in supine position were coded for ‘symmetry’ by trained researchers who were blind to the eventual clinical diagnosis of the child. Symmetry was determined by matching the position of the baby to a standard list of infant asymmetric positions called the Positional Pattern for Symmetry During Lying. The results were consistent with the common clinical observations. Children with autism were rated as infants to be significantly less symmetric than children with developmental delays and typically developing children. Moreover, there were no differences between the typically developing children and those with non-autism developmental delays. The authors found that all of the children with low levels of symmetry were in the autism group, but that these represented only a subgroup of children with autism. This was interpreted as evidence for a possible subgroup of autism that is related to dysregulation in neural pathways associated with balance and motor movements.

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