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Even high functioning children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) exhibit impairments that affect their ability to carry out and maintain effective social interactions in multiple contexts. One aspect of subtle nonverbal communication that might play a role in this impairment is the whole-body motor coordination that naturally arises between people during conversation. The current study aimed to measure the time-dependent, coordinated whole-body movements between children with ASD and a clinician during a conversational exchange using tools of nonlinear dynamics. Given the influence that subtle interpersonal coordination has on social interaction feelings, we expected there to be important associations between the dynamic motor movement measures introduced in the current study and the measures used traditionally to categorize ASD impairment (ADOS-2, joint attention and theory of mind). The study found that children with ASD coordinated their bodily movements with a clinician, that these movements were complex and that the complexity of the children’s movements matched that of the clinician’s movements. Importantly, the degree of this bodily coordination was related to higher social cognitive ability. This suggests children with ASD are embodying some degree of social competence during conversations. This study demonstrates the importance of further investigating the subtle but important bodily movement coordination that occurs during social interaction in children with ASD.

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This research was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health of the National Institute of Health ( under award numbers R21MH094659 (PF, AD, MJR, RCS) and F31MH108331 (VR). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institute of Health. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.



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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.