Most autistic people — 87 percent, according to the latest estimate — have some sort of motor difficulty, ranging from an atypical gait to problems with handwriting1. These issues are distinct from the repetitive behaviors considered to be a hallmark of autism. And yet, despite their prevalence, motor problems are not considered a core trait of autism, because they also occur with other conditions, such as Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Here, we describe what experts know about the causes, characteristics and consequences of motor difficulties, which they say are among the least understood and most neglected aspects of autism. They also call on researchers to better assess motor difficulties in autistic people and for clinicians to treat these problems, especially because motor setbacks may have consequences far beyond simply impeding movement.