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Child Psychology-Autism Spectrum Disorder

Child Psychology-Autism Spectrum Disorder

Definition and Description

Autism spectrum disorder  (ASD) is a condition that affects brain development, and as a result, the perception and socialization capabilities of the individual are affected. Hence, a person with ASD has a problem with communication and social interaction. Wu et al. (2021) add that this challenge is also manifested through the person’s limited behavior and repetitive patterns of action. Since this disorder has a broad range of symptoms and severity, the term spectrum is added to the name to signal the symptoms and severity. ASD today encompasses the other previously singled out conditions like pervasive development disorder, Asperger’s syndrome, and childhood disintegrative disorder. Another essential thing to note about this developmental challenge is that it begins during the early childhood stages and may continue throughout an individual’s life. This person, therefore, grows up having challenges in their social life. Symptoms are commonly seen during the first year, but in some cases, the child may seem fine during the first year but begin regressing from 18 to 24 months, when symptoms of the condition begin to appear.

Sensory-motor development is when a child gains the ability to use and coordinate the muscles of their arms, trunk, legs, and even hands. This development is also accompanied by the child’s ability to experience the environment through sound, sight, taste, smell, and hearing. Children with ASD may face motor challenges because the differences in the brain affect the sensory and motor system and affect the coordination of movement. Hypotonia can also affect motor development in children with ASD. When the child is in a social environment, anxiety can deter the child from physical activities, hindering motor development. ASD comes with cognitive issues that affect the planning and execution of movements. ASD children may also have generalized joint hypermobility, which requires extra muscle strength that a child may not have. ASD also causes tight muscles, and when the child cannot stretch the calf muscles, they end up toe walking.

Theoretical Approach

The Dynamic system theory by Nicolai Bernstein holds that motor skills do not develop steadily continuously. Instead, they develop in bits, and as such, a slight change in one subsystem can impact the entire system, leading to different motor behaviors. This theory further argues that for a child to master, coordinated movements is mastering the redundant degree of freedom. In other words, the neural control of training is best understood by knowing the system’s characteristics being moved and the internal and external forces at work when the plan is moving.

The second theory is Jean Piaget’s theory, which describes cognitive development in children. In this description, Piaget asserts that sensorimotor development occurs during the first two years of the infant’s life. The most outstanding milestone is that the child will start repeating behavior and exploring their environment while interacting with objects.

There are also three theories used to explain ASD. The first one is the Theory of Mind Deficit (ToM). This is the most commonly used and studied theory that Simon Baron-Cohen developed. ToM theory states that a person with the theory of the mind should be capable of identifying mental states in others and themselves and also make predictions regarding others. ToM theory holds that children with ASD have a deficit in ToM. As such, they are likely to struggle with explaining their conduct, predicting others’ behavior and emotions, understanding their feelings, understanding the perspectives of others, inferring intentions, and differentiating between facts and fiction. These challenges affect how ASD persons think and feel. Weak Central Cohesion (WCC) is another theory on ASD, and this theory explains that people with this condition have a weak central cohesion (WCC). WCC theory explains that ASD makes it impossible for the victim to incorporate information at various levels. This, in return, makes it difficult for these people to integrate detail into global units. The third theory that helps to explain ASD is the executive function disorder. This theory holds people with this disorder have a problem with their executive functions. This conclusion was made after the researchers behind this theory realized that people with ASD struggle to perform complex tasks that require abstract concepts like planning and reasoning.

Domains of Development

Autism mainly affects cognitive, social-emotional, and language domains. However, according to Bhat  (2020), other developmental challenges may accompany this disorder, like delayed motor skills, problems with feeding and sleeping, anxiety, behavior issues, and inattention. Generally, a broader scope of developmental domains is affected. As such, it is essential to conduct a therapy that assesses all the domains of development to be sure that a child has ASD. Hence, ASD will affect the cognitive domain, which is the developmental domain that is responsible for skills. The child with this disorder may be slow in academics and slow in mastering certain activities such as spreading bed after sleep and undertaking basic hygiene. A social-emotional domain is the inability to understand other people’s emotions and respond with the right emotions. The language domain is connected to the child’s ability to talk or communicate using words. Since ASD causes a delay in development, it can lead to delays in the child’s communication ability.

Bidirectional Influences

Parenting a child with ASD can help the child adjust and function independently or hinder the child from proper development. The parent should focus on positive reinforcement, remain consistent and stick to schedules, undertake everyday activities with the child, and ensure time to play with the child. In other words, a parent should support the child in capturing the routines of his life and activities. This can happen from an early age as long as it is evident that the child has autism and needs special attention.

Schools can be challenging for children with autism because they will often take time to adjust to an environment that does not align with their emotions. Therefore, going to school can be a problem for these children. Still, at the same time, when these learners are taken to schools with suitable facilities and approaches to helping children, autistic children can improve their skills and perform tasks like every other child. The schools may also offer much-needed support to the parents of these children to help the child improve even as they develop.

Society creates a challenge on the subject of autism, and at the same time, autism also challenges the community. From the lens of society, one can gather that many people still do not understand autism as a disorder. In some cases, it is considered a mental disorder, which it is not. In societies where the illness is very unclear, society may think it a curse. However, on the other hand, society is affected by the lack of awareness and the need to take appropriate actions to help ASD children live positive lives.

Data-Driven Research

The suggestion made in this discussion earlier indicates a connection between ASD and motor capabilities. A study conducted by Ruggri et al. (2020) showed that the proportion of ASD-afflicted children at risk of motor impairment was very high at 86.9%. The study also showed that none of the children with ASD managed to outgrow their motor impairments. This study showed a strong connection between ASD and motor impairments. In this second study by Wu et al. (2020), some findings further supported the idea that motor and language capabilities were affected by ASD. Specifically, this research found that the children who had ASD had slower language and motor development. Zampella et al. (2021) also showed that ASD children had motor and language development challenges. However, in their study, they argued that ASD is treatable and it is essential to detect it in time, and when detected, treatment should target motor capabilities. To reaffirm their findings, Bhat (2020) did a study that showed that motor challenges could be treated through physiological therapy (activities like horse riding and other motor activities).

Research Methods

Looking at the articles chosen, the research methods that are dominantly used are experimental. The researchers rely on empirical studies to conclude. These studies were also longitudinal because the researcher repeatedly conducted the experiment and made observations to see if there were some evident changes after some time. The research methods used are adequate to address the impact of ASD on motor and language capabilities. It is significant to note that the causes of autism are still unknown. Therefore, any studies concerning this topic require experimental research to ensure we get empirical results.

Personal Opinion

ASD has been there for quite a while, and several studies are currently going on this topic. More studies on its connection to motor and language skills must continue. It is also significant that these studies should examine how ASD could be related to or separated from other cognitive challenges.


Bhat A. N. (2020). Is Motor Impairment in Autism Spectrum Disorder Distinct From Developmental Coordination Disorder? A Report From the SPARK Study. Physical therapy, 100(4), 633–644.

Ruggeri, A., Dancel, A., Johnson, R., & Sargent, B. (2020). The effect of motor and physical activity intervention on motor outcomes of children with autism spectrum disorder: A systematic review. Autism: the international journal of research and practice, 24(3), 544–568.

Wu, Y. T., Tsao, C. H., Huang, H. C., Yang, T. A., & Li, Y. J. (2021). Relationship Between Motor Skills and Language Abilities in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder. Physical therapy, 101(5), pzab033.

Zampella, C. J., Wang, L., Haley, M., Hutchinson, A. G., & de Marchena, A. (2021). Motor Skill Differences in Autism Spectrum Disorder: a Clinically Focused Review. Current psychiatry reports, 23(10), 64.


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Child Psychology (PSY 2030) Writing Assignment

The purpose of the assignment is to measure students’ ability to:
1. Explain the major theoretical perspectives in childhood developmental psychology, including the biological, psychodynamic, behavioral, and sociocultural.

Child Psychology-Autism Spectrum Disorder

Child Psychology-Autism Spectrum Disorder

2. Interpret research methods used by developmental psychologists to study childhood as a developmental period of the life span.
3. Distinguish the differences between genetic and environmental factors that influence development during the period of childhood.
4. Evaluate differences in the physical, cognitive, social, emotional, and moral changes that occur during childhood.
5. Explain the issues related to parenting, schooling, and peer relationships during the period of childhood from the context of contemporary societal challenges.
6. Apply ethical principles used to protect and promote the “best interest of the child.”
7. Use information literacy skills to research individual/group papers, projects, and presentations related to child development.

Grading: This assignment is worth 100 points, 20% of the final course grade.

Directions: You are to prepare a 3-5 page (including cover and reference pages) paper that reviews the literature on a topic of interest in child psychology. Focusing on one period of development, you are to discuss your topic and its impact on child development.
1) Provide a description and definition of your chosen topic (i.e., autism and sensory motor development) using textbook information and child development literature.
2) Discuss major theoretical approaches that contribute to an understanding of the topic of child development.
3) Discuss the domains of development (i.e., physical, cognitive, psychosocial) as relevant to your topic.
4) Discuss at least 3 bidirectional influences of the topic on the child and the contexts of development (i.e., parenting, schooling, relationships, society). Also, include a discussion of the impact of genetic and environmental factors inherent to the topic.
5) Select 4 data-driven research articles published within the last 7 years relevant to your topic of interest. Integrate the findings of the articles into your discussion of the topic.

6) Evaluate the research methods employed by psychologists on this topic. Are the articles that you read correlational or experimental? Cross-sectional research or longitudinal? Do you feel the methods are adequate to address the topic? Why? Why not?
7) Discuss your opinion (undergirded by textbook and readings) on this topic. Explain any future directions in research that you would take to promote the best interest of the child as it relates to your topic.

Your paper must be done using the APA formatting style (from the 7th edition American Psychological Association Style Manual), which includes:
1) A title page with the title in the middle of the page, page number, your name, class and professor’s name;
2) page numbering in the upper right corner beginning with 1 on the title page;
3) in-text citations in APA format (that means the citation follows either the quote or the paraphrase of the information provided) and
4) a reference page at the end (called References) in APA format.

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