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Autism Spectrum Disorder: An Emerging Opportunity for Physical Therapy

Mieres, Ana C. PT, MSPT, PhD; Kirby, Russell S. PhD, MS, FACE; Armstrong, Kathleen H. PhD; Murphy, Tanya K. MD, MS; Grossman, Lee BA

doi: 10.1097/PEP.0b013e31823e06d1
Special Communication

Purpose: A growing body of evidence from research on autism spectrum disorder (ASD) confirms a substantial sensory motor component to ASD. Yet, policy and practice lag behind in recognizing the potential contributions of physical therapists in research, practice, and education related to ASD. The objective of this commentary is to inform and encourage reflection and formal dialogue among pediatric physical therapists regarding the assumption of vital roles in research, education, and clinical practice in ASD.

Key Points: Selected studies representative of the type of work being carried out with respect to motor aspects of ASD is presented with selected older literature for those unfamiliar with the range of information available.

Conclusion: Findings from research provide ample substantiation for physical therapists to join interdisciplinary efforts as researchers, scholars, educators, policy analysts, and advocates in ASD. Physical therapists have the potential and ability to play a much greater role in ASD.

This interdisciplinary group of authors provides background information on current diagnostic policy development, research on the motor behavior of children with ASD, and the potential for early identification and intervention of children with ASD. They highlight opportunities for PTs to become more involved in activities related to ASD.

School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences (Dr Mieres), Department of Community and Family Health College of Public Health (Dr Kirby), Department of Pediatrics (Drs Armstrong and Murphy), and Department of Psychiatry (Dr Murphy), University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida; Autism Society of America (Mr Grossman), Baltimore, Maryland.

Ana C. Mieres, PT, MSPT, PhD, eQHealth Solutions, 5802 Benjamin Center Drive, Suite 105, Tampa, FL 33634 (

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.