Evaluating the importance of social motor synchronization and motor skill for understanding autism

Paula Fitzpatrick*, Veronica Romero, Joseph L. Amaral, Amie Duncan, Holly Barnard, Michael J. Richardson, R. C. Schmidt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


Impairments in social interaction and communicating with others are core features of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), but the specific processes underlying such social competence impairments are not well understood. An important key for increasing our understanding of ASD-specific social deficits may lie with the social motor synchronization that takes place when we implicitly coordinate our bodies with others. Here, we tested whether dynamical measures of synchronization differentiate children with ASD from controls and further explored the relationships between synchronization ability and motor control problems. We found (a) that children with ASD exhibited different and less stable patterns of social synchronization ability than controls; (b) children with ASD performed motor movements that were slower and more variable in both spacing and timing; and (c) some social synchronization that involved motor timing was related to motor ability but less rhythmic synchronization was not. These findings raise the possibility that objective dynamical measures of synchronization ability and motor skill could provide new insights into understanding the social deficits in ASD that could ultimately aid clinical diagnosis and prognosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1687-1699
Number of pages13
JournalAutism Research
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • autism
  • social synchronization
  • dynamics
  • social interaction
  • motor skill


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