Standing balance on unsteady surfaces in children on the autism spectrum: The effects of IQ

Abstract Background Postural stability difficulties are commonly reported in people on the autism spectrum. However, it is unclear whether unsteady surfaces may exacerbate postural stability difficulties in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Understanding balance on unsteady surfaces is important because uneven surfaces are commonly encountered in daily life. Methods Twenty-one youth on the autism spectrum and 16 youth with typical development (ages 6–16 years, IQ ≥ 79) stood on both a fixed and unsteady (tiltable) platform, and center of pressure was measured. Results The group with ASD exhibited differentially more postural sway on the unsteady surface compared to the group with typical development. However, there was substantial variability within the ASD group. Follow-up analyses suggested that much of the variability in postural sway in the ASD group was accounted for by IQ. Conclusions Clinically, these findings suggest that not all individuals with ASD struggle more with postural stability on unsteady surfaces. Instead children and adolescents with ASD and below-average IQ may have particular difficulty on unsteady surfaces and may require accommodations. Further, these findings lay the groundwork for future research to investigate the underlying mechanisms of poorer balance across the autism spectrum.
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