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Subtle Oculomotor Difficulties and Their Relation to Motor Skill in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Sumner, E., Hutton, S. B. & Hill, E. L. ORCID: 0000-0003-3130-1271 (2021). Subtle Oculomotor Difficulties and Their Relation to Motor Skill in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Advances in Neurodevelopmental Disorders, 5(2), pp. 144-155. doi: 10.1007/s41252-020-00188-1


Objectives: Sensorimotor difficulties are often reported in autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Visual and motor skills are linked in that the processing of visual information can help in guiding motor movements. The present study investigated oculomotor skill and its relation to general motor skill in ASD by providing a comprehensive assessment of oculomotor control.

Methods: Fifty children (25 ASD; 25 typically developing [TD]), aged 7–10 years, completed a motor assessment (comprising fine and gross motor tasks) and oculomotor battery (comprising fixation, smooth pursuit, prosaccade and antisaccade tasks).

Results: No group differences were found for antisaccade errors, nor saccade latencies in prosaccade and antisaccade tasks, but increased saccade amplitude variability was observed in children with ASD, suggesting a reduced consistency in saccade accuracy. Children with ASD also demonstrated poorer fixation stability than their peers and spent less time in pursuit of a moving target. Motor skill was not correlated with saccade amplitude variability. However, regression analyses revealed that motor skill (and not diagnosis) accounted for variance in fixation performance and fast smooth pursuit.

Conclusions: The findings highlight the importance of considering oculomotor paradigms to inform the functional impact of neuropathologies in ASD and also assessing the presentation of co-occurring difficulties to further our understanding of ASD. Avenues for future research are suggested.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit
Publisher Keywords: Autism, Fixation, Motor skill, Oculomotor, Saccades, Smooth pursuit
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
R Medicine > RJ Pediatrics > RJ101 Child Health. Child health services
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