Lesser magnitudes of lower extremity variability during terminal swing characterizes walking patterns in children with autism

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Clinical Biomechanics

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© 2020 Elsevier Ltd Background: Anecdotally, children with Autism Spectrum Disorder have highly variable lower extremity walking patterns, yet, this has not been sufficiently quantified. As such, the purpose of this study was to examine walking pattern variability by way of lower extremity coordination and spatio-temporal characteristics in children with autism compared with individuals with typical development during over-ground walking. Methods: Bilateral continuous relative phase variability was computed for the thigh-leg, leg-foot, and thigh-foot segment couples for 11 children with autism and 9 children with typical development at each gait sub-phase. Furthermore, left and right stride lengths and stride width were computed and compared. The Model Statistic was utilized to test for statistical differences in variability between each child with autism to an aggregate group with typical development. Effect sizes were computed to determine the meaningfulness between responses for children with autism and typical development. Coefficient of variation and effect sizes were computed for stride lengths and stride width. Findings: Analysis revealed that children with autism exhibited differences in variability in each gait sub-phase. Notably, all but two children with autism exhibited lesser variability in all segment couples during terminal swing. Differences in stride lengths were relatively minimal, however, greater coefficient of variation magnitudes in stride width were observed in children with autism. Interpretation: This finding reveals that children with autism may have limited or a preferred movement strategy when preparing the foot for ground contact. The findings from this study suggest variability may be an identifiable characteristic during movement in children with autism.