Gait in 11 children with autism (age range 4-7 years) and 11 controls was analyzed, using the GAITRite electronic walkway connected to a computer in a study at Department of Psychological Medicine, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia. Children with autism had difficulty walking tandem, reduced stride regularity, and variable velocity, compatible with cerebellar dysfunction. They were also less coordinated and erratic in their movements. Postural abnormalities in head and trunk suggested basal ganglia involvement. Abnormal gait is proposed as a useful clinical screening test for autism. [1]

COMMENT. Neuropathological findings in autism (Ped Neur Briefs Dec 2004;18:89-90) [2] document an increase in head circumference, brain weight and brain volume, decrease in Purkinje cells in the cerebellum, and dysgenesis in the cerebral cortex. Autism is a neurodevelopmental, genetically determined disorder characterized by impairments in social interaction and communication skills, cognitive rigidity, abnormal language development, and repetitive, stereotypical behaviors.

A significant increase in prevalence of autism and pervasive developmental disorders (PDD), from 14.7 to 30.8/10,000 between 1980 and 1993, is reported in France. Morphogenetic anomalies (chromosomal, CNS and other anomalies), and hospitalization rates in the neonatal period are also increased in children with PDD. [3]