De Francesco S., Morello, L., Fioravanti, M., Cassaro, C., Grazioli, S., Busti Ceccarelli, S., Nobile, M., Molteni, M., & Crippa, A. (2023). A multimodal approach can identify specific motor profiles in autism and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder – Autism Research – Volume 16, Issue 8


It is still unclear whether and to what extent the motor difficulties are specific to autism. This study aimed to determine whether a multimodal assessment of motor skills could accurately discriminate autistic children from attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and typically developing (TD) peers. Seventy-five children, aged 7–13, equally divided into three groups, were assessed with the developmental coordination disorder questionnaire (DCDQ), the movement assessment battery for children 2 (MABC2), the sensorimotor subtests of NEPSY-II, and the kinematic analysis of a reach-to-drop task. Principal component analysis (PCA) on DCDQ subscales revealed one factor—Caregiver Report—, whereas MABC2/NEPSY-II scores identified three factors—namely, Object Interception and Balance, Motor Imitation, and Fine-Motor Skills—. Lastly, PCA on kinematic variables identified four factors: PC1, loaded by the parameters of velocity and acceleration throughout the task, PC2 and PC3 involved the temporal parameters of the two submovements, and PC4 accounted for the wrist inclination at ball drop. When comparing autistic and TD children, Caregiver Report and Motor Imitation factors predicted membership with 87.2% of accuracy. In the model comparing ADHD and TD groups, Caregiver Report and Fine-Motor Skills predicted membership with an accuracy of 73.5%. In the last model, the Object Interception and Balance factor differentiated autistic children from ADHD with an accuracy of 73.5%. In line with our previous findings, kinematics did not differentiate school-aged autistic children from ADHD and TD peers. The present findings show that specific motor profiles in autism and ADHD can be isolated with a multimodal investigation of motor skills.