Greetings Earthlings! 🙂
Today I’m going to talk to you about coordination difficulties and the spectrum.
Did you know: Roughly 80% of autists have issues with motor coordination?
And I am no exception! 😛
To be honest, I needn’t even write anything for this post- a host of gifs would fairly accurately sum up my experiences of coordination! 😛
I drop things more easily, I fall over a LOT, bump into things, walk sideways into people I’m walking alongside, fumble a little longer with buttons, laces, hair clips etc. People have often thought I’ve been drunk on nights out (although I don’t drink) when coordination trouble presents itself- giddyness has a habit of rendering me less coordinated for some reason! 😛
These incidents happen so often it becomes another part of daily life- you trip over your feet for no reason, laugh and keep walking! 😛
You might think I’m exaggerating but it happens all the time! Even my dogs have noticed- I once fell flat on my face on a walk and my normally attentive German Shepherd just stood and laughed, waiting for me to get back up! 😛
I’ve always been a little slower than my peers when it comes to mastering my finer motor skills. From my very first skip I’ve struggled with my coordination issues.
My mother often reminds me of how I used to screw my face up in concentration after dance classes in my attempts to master the skill. I would try and try and try to skip around the room, but kept falling over my own two feet!
Don’t get me started on the struggle to add in a skipping rope! 😛
But nevertheless, each time I fell, I got back up again and persisted until I mastered it- and then you couldn’t keep me from skipping!
This has always been my experience of coordination. I struggle a little bit longer than my peers to develop my motor skills, but with persistence, master them I will. Tying my shoelaces, riding a bike, learning to drive, knitting- all these skills took time to master, but I got there in the end 🙂
Now if I could just master walking in heels, I’d be flying! 😛 😉
Top tip– Keeping on top of sleep, thirst and hunger can really help to keep your coordination in check. In addition to acting loopy if I fall victim to these, I find that my equilibrium can also be affected.
But what do scientists have to say about these coordination issues?
The underlying cause of these issues is poorly understood, however, recent studies suggest that motor coordination issues in autism are likely linked to abnormal neural connections in the brain. Remember the synapse (or connecting junction point between two neurons) which we discussed last week? Autist’s have an overabundance of these bad boys compared with normally developing peers.
So how does the synapse affect motor coordination?
Motor learning and control is influenced by a specific group of neurons known as purkinje cells. Purkinje cells, (located in the cerebellum- an area heavily involved in motor control), receive signals from climbing fibers- a type of neuron which carries information from the body to the brain. These climbing fibers detect changes or disturbances in our environment, such as changes in space or the position of nearby objects, and relay this information to the purkinje cells. Purkinje cells then emit inhibitory signals at synapses so to modify motor movements accordingly.
In autism however, the efficacy of purkinje cells to influence motor change is greatly reduced.
Normally, each purkinje cell receives input from a single climbing fiber. Autists have too many synapses connecting the brain, and so the purkinje cell receives signals from multiple climbing fibers. This confuses the purkinje cell, which in turn alters the efficacy of corrective signals. Like a game of Chinese Whispers, the more people involved (i.e. synapses and climbing fibers), the more the message get’s lost in translation.
To give an example, if you were walking along and someone threw a ball at you, climbing fibers will alert the purkinje cells to tell the body to move out of the way. In autism….well, the signal to do this get’s scrambled on route to the brain, aaaaand… you’ll likely get hit in the face! 😛
^^^^Story of my life right here! 😛
At the end of the day, whilst coordination problems can be incredibly frustrating, persist and you will get there 🙂
Never give up- ride that bike, drive that car, skip like there’s no tomorrow!! Autism only limits us if we allow ourselves to be limited 🙂