European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

, Volume 24, Issue 12, pp 1497–1507 | Cite as

Identification of neuromotor deficits common to autism spectrum disorder and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and imitation deficits specific to autism spectrum disorder

  • Monica Biscaldi
  • Reinhold Rauh
  • Cora Müller
  • Lisa Irion
  • Christopher W. N. Saville
  • Eberhard Schulz
  • Christoph Klein
Original Contribution


Deficits in motor and imitation abilities are a core finding in autism spectrum disorders (ASD), but impaired motor functions are also found in attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Given recent theorising about potential aetiological overlap between the two disorders, the present study aimed to assess difficulties in motor performance and imitation of facial movements and meaningless gestures in a sample of 24 ADHD patients, 22 patients with ASD, and 20 typically developing children, matched for age (6–13 years) and similar in IQ (>80). Furthermore, we explored the impact of comorbid ADHD symptoms on motor and imitation performance in the ASD sample and the interrelationships between the two groups of variables in the clinical groups separately. The results show motor dysfunction was common to both disorders, but imitation deficits were specific to ASD. Together with the pattern of interrelated motor and imitation abilities, which we found exclusively in the ASD group, our findings suggest complex phenotypic, and possibly aetiological, relationships between the two neurodevelopmental conditions.


Autism spectrum disorder Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder Motor Zurich Neuromotor Assessment Imitation Meaningless gestures 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Monica Biscaldi
    • 1
  • Reinhold Rauh
    • 1
  • Cora Müller
    • 1
  • Lisa Irion
    • 1
  • Christopher W. N. Saville
    • 2
  • Eberhard Schulz
    • 1
  • Christoph Klein
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, and PsychosomaticsUniversity of FreiburgFreiburgGermany
  2. 2.School of PsychologyBangor UniversityBangorUK
  3. 3.Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychosomatics and Psychotherapy, Medical FacultyUniversity of CologneCologneGermany

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