Loyola University Maryland

Emerging Scholars

Katarina Ament, Rebecca Buhlman, Shannon Erklin, Stewart Mostofsky, Ericka Wodka

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Association Between Motor, Social, and Sensory Functioning in Children with ADHD and ASD

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Background: Motor impairments are common in children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The Movement Assessment Battery for Children-2 (MABC-2) and the Developmental Coordination Disorder Questionnaire (DCDQ) are two measures commonly used to assess motor impairment in children. Evidence suggests that the DCDQ may not be a valid measure of motor dysfunction. Research also shows that children with ASD and ADHD exhibit impairments in sensory processing and social functioning. Yet, little research examines how other functional modalities differentially relate to motor functioning in ADHD and ASD.

Objective: 1) To determine whether the DCDQ can be used to assess motor dysfunction in children with ADHD and ASD and 2) To determine whether other functional modalities differentially relate to motor impairment in ADHD and ASD.

Method: The DCDQ and the MABC-2 were used to assess motor impairment in the ADHD and ASD groups. The Sensory Processing Measure (SPM) was used to assess sensory processing abilities, and the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS) was used to assess social skills and functioning. 

Results: Bivariate correlations for children in the ADHD and control groups showed a significant relation between total DCDQ and MABC-2 scores (r = 0.411, p = .008 and r = 0.407, p = .003, respectively). There was no significant relation between total DCDQ and total MABC-2 scores for the ASD group. Additional analyses revealed a 65% agreement in movement categorization between the two measures and a kappa coefficient of .201. Analyses revealed a significant relation between total DCDQ score and three SRS subscales for the ASD group (Social Awareness: r = -0.543, p = .001; Social Communication: r = -0.566, p < .001; Social Motivation: r = -0.472. p = .004; Autistic Mannerisms: r = -.521, p = .001). Similar relations were found between total DCDQ score and two SRS subscales for controls (Social Communication: r = -0.386, p = .005; Social Motivation: r = -0.423. p = .002). There were no significant relations between total DCDQ score and the SRS subscales for the ADHD group. Analyses revealed a significant relation between total DCDQ score and one SPM subscales for children in the ASD group (Planning Ideas: r = -.512, p = .002) and a significant relation between total DCDQ score and one SPM subscale for the ADHD group (Balance Motion: r = -0.532, p < .001).

Conclusions: The DCDQ may not be a valid measure for assessing movement difficulties in children with ASD, as parents’ perceptions of their child’s motor performance are not consistent with performance-based clinical assessment (MABC-2). Low agreement between the DCDQ and MABC-2 on level of motor impairment suggests that the DCDQ may not be a valid screening tool for developmental coordination disorder. Social functioning appears to be more related to motor functioning for children with ASD compared to children with ADHD. Motor deficits for children with ASD may be more related to the ability to plan motor responses, while motor deficits for children with ADHD may be more related to kinesthetic abilities.