Lower extremity joint stiffness during walking distinguishes children with and without autism
Human Movement Science
© 2018 Elsevier B.V. How children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and peers with typical development (TD) modulate lower extremity stiffness during walking could identify a mechanism for gait differences between groups. We quantified differences in lower extremity joint stiffness and linear impulses, along the vertical and anterior/posterior axes during over-ground walking in children with ASD compared to age- and gender-matched children with TD. Nine age- and gender-matched pairs of children, aged 5–12 years, completed the current study. Joint stiffness and linear impulses were computed in four sub-phases of stance: loading response, mid-stance, terminal stance, and pre-swing. The Model Statistic technique (α = 0.05) was used to test for statistical significance between the matched-pairs for each variable and sub-phase. Furthermore, dependent t-tests (α = 0.05) were utilized, at the group level, to determine whether significant differences existed between sub-phases. Results indicate that children with ASD may exhibit greater stiffness in pre-swing, and thus, produce inefficient propulsive forces during walking. We attribute these differences to sensory processing dysfunction previously observed in children with ASD.