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Children with psychiatric disorders often demonstrate gross motor problems. This study investigates if the reverse also holds true by assessing psychiatric symptoms present in children with gross motor problems. Emotional, behavioral, and autism spectrum disorders (ASD), as well as psychosocial problems, were assessed in a sample of 40 children with gross motor problems from an elementary school population (aged 7 through 12 years). Sixty-five percent of the sample met the criteria for psychiatric classification. Anxiety disorders were found most often (45%), followed by ASD (25%) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorders (15%). Internalizing (51%) and social problems (41%) were prominent, as was “stereotyped behavior” (92%) and “resistance to changes” (92%). Self-perceived incompetence was restricted to domains that were indeed impaired (i.e., the athletic and social domains). The results suggest that children with gross motor problems are strongly at risk for psychiatric problems including anxiety, internalization, and ASD.

The authors are with VU University in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Claudia Emck, Ruud Bosscher, Piet van Wieringen, and Peter Beek are with the Faculty of Human Movement Sciences and Theo Doreleijers is with the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.