Co-Existence of Motor Coordination Impairments in Semi-Hospitalized Children and Adolescents with Psychiatric Disorders

Background: Recent evidence suggests that children and adolescents presenting poor motor skills are at greater risk of developing internalizing symptoms, emotional/behavioural and externalizing problems. Motor coordination difficulties, as in Developmental Coordination Disorder, co-occurrence with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity and Autism Spectrum Disorders are well documented. Few studies investigated the co-occurrence of motor difficulties and mood, anxiety, psychotic and emerging personality disorders in children and adolescents. Objectives: To investigate whether children presenting psychiatric symptomatology manifest motor coordination difficulties. Methods: 48 children and adolescents in semi-hospitalisation in a psychiatric-day facility were selected during a period of two years and screened according to DSM-5 criteria and a motor coordination assessment battery. Results: Our findings demonstrated motor difficulties (percentile ≤ 16 in Movement Assessment Battery for Children-2) to be significantly more prevalent among children and adolescents with Bipolar (15.62%), Psychotic (9.37%), Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity (21.87%) and Autistic disorders (18.75%). Motor coordination difficulties were equally prevalent among children presenting Anxiety (12.50%), Conduct (3.12%), Eating (3.12%) and Depressive disorders (9.37%) although no significant difference were detected between groups. Youth presenting traits of Emerging Personality Disorders did not reveal motor difficulties. Conclusion: The co-occurrence of motor deficits and internalizing symptoms, such as in Bipolar and Psychotic disorders is somehow unexpected but offer evidence to support some previous findings in the literature. The presence of motor coordination deficits among patients with Attention deficit/ Hyperactivity and Autistic disorders is congruent to previous literature. Future research should further explore the association of motor deficits with Bipolar and Psychotic disorders in larger samples, and highlights the need for motor assessment in the practice of child psychiatry.

Author(s): Margareth RM Dreyer, Miguel A Boarati, Telma Pantano, Gabriel O Belizario, Sandra Scivoletto and Cristiana CA Rocca