Peabody Reflector

Early motor training and social development

Issue, Research News, Winter 2012 | No Comment | |

 

In a new study published in the journal Developmental Science, researchers from Peabody and the Kennedy Krieger Institute found that early motor experiences can shape infants’ preference for objects and faces. In the photo below, taken from video of project participants, an infant using “sticky mittens” is shown manipulating toys. This kind of early motor development was shown to increase interest in faces, suggesting that it advances social skills.

In a new study published in the journal Developmental Science, researchers from Peabody and the Kennedy Krieger Institute found that early motor experiences can shape infants’ preferences for objects and faces. The study findings demonstrate that providing infants with “sticky mittens” to manipulate toys increases their subsequent interest in faces, suggesting advanced social development.

This study supports a growing body of evidence that early motor development and self-produced motor experiences contribute to infants’ understanding of the social world around them. Conversely, this implies that when motor skills are delayed or impaired—as in autism—future social interactions and development could be negatively impacted.

“Our findings suggest that in early development, there are more connections among different behaviors than people may expect,” said study co-author Amy Needham, professor of psychology and Vanderbilt Kennedy Center investigator. “Early motor development is so important for infants—in this case, beginning to grasp and move objects allows infants to control their own experiences much more directly than they could before.”

Previous research has found that infants diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) show less interest in faces and social orienting. While the current study was conducted with typically developing infants, it indicates that infants who are at risk for ASD or show signs of abnormal social development may benefit from motor training as early as 3 months of age.

For more, visit: news.vanderbilt.edu/2011/09/sticky-mittens

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