Background: Children with ASD often exhibit repetitive and stereotyped behaviors as well as difficulty performing motor actions. Difficulty in performing actions may stem from resistance to formulating new motor plans (persisting with previous motor plans even when new plans are needed for efficient movement). The aim of this study was to document flexibility of motor planning in individuals with ASD.
Method: Five children with ASD and 5 neurotypical control children performed a grasp-and-place motor task. In successive trials, a wooden rod was placed in one of 24 different orientations – rotating either clockwise or counterclockwise around a circular template. A child grasped the rod and moved it. The position where the child switched from thumb-toward one end of the rod to the other in each direction was recorded.
Results: Neurotypical children exhibited earlier grasp switches as well as a greater number of grasp switches as compared to children with ASD.
Conclusion: We found preliminary evidence that, for children with ASD, changing a grasp was more costly than being uncomfortable.