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Postural control before and after transitional locomotor tasks in children on the autism spectrum: A case-control study.

Clinical Biomechanics 2024 April 13
BACKGROUND: Instrumented measurements of postural control provide a more accurate insight into the motor development of children with autism. This study aimed to identify postural control deficits in autistic children during quiet standing before and after transient locomotor task. It was hypothesized that the parameters that characterize the trajectory of center of foot pressure (COP) displacement would be higher in autistic children compared to typically developing children.

METHODS: Sixteen autistic children aged 6-10 but without a comorbidity diagnosis, were enrolled in the study group. The control group comprised 16 typically developing peers. The assessment of the transitional task comprised four different conditions: unperturbed and perturbed transition, stepping up, and stepping down tasks. Analysis of the COP signal was carried out for three distinct phases, i.e., phase 1 - quiet standing before step initiation, phase 2 - transit, and phase 3 - quiet standing until measurement completion.

FINDINGS: The two-way ANOVA with a 2 × 4 factorial design (group × testing condition) revealed a group effect on all posturographic variables in the antero-posterior and medio-lateral directions of phase 1 and in the antero-posterior direction of phase 3. The Bonferroni post-hoc test showed the means of all those variables were significantly higher for the autistic than for typically developing children. Group allocation also had an effect on the time of transit and step length, which turned out to be significantly longer in autistic children compared to healthy peers.

INTERPRETATION: Autistic children show increased postural sway before and after transitional locomotor tasks compared to typically developing children. The trial was prospectively registered in the Australian and New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (no. ACTRN12621001113842; date registered: 23.08.2021).

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