The autism gait

Apr 20, 2021

Did you know that about 80% of people with autism have some sort of issue with movement? Despite this being a common issue, movement problems are not considered a core feature of autism, which means they are not required for a diagnosis with autism.

They are understudied compared with the social difficulties and repetitive behaviours that define the condition. Movement problems can vary from person to person, but most people with autism have some sort of difficulty co-ordinating their movement as well as trouble with balance.


Children with autism tend to have a wide stance and their stride length and width vary from step to step. Commonly their upper body also tends to tilt forward as they walk, and they have more of a bouncy gait. If you have more movement in the upper half of your body as you walk, you tend to be more unstable in the bottom half so you account for this by widening your gait. This aims to give you more stability when walking.


Difficulty with movement and co-ordination can be frustrating for children with autism. An assessment of a child’s gait by a podiatrist can be very beneficial. Devices such as orthotics or footwear changes can help to improve stability, propulsion and stride length. This can make movement much easier and feel more natural for the child. 


Many children with autism have sensory issues that can make wearing orthotic devices difficult. Orthotics should therefore be designed with this in mind. The devices should help provide sensory input along with improving lower extremity alignment in order to help facilitate better postural control. This can lead to improvements in gross motor skills.