Early motor impairments have been reported in children with neurodevelopmental disorders (NDD), but it is not clear if early detection of motor impairments can identify children at risk for NDD or how early such impairments might be detected.


To characterize early motor function in children later diagnosed with NDD relative to typically developing children or normative data.


The Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, Embase, Medline, PsycINFO, and Scopus electronic databases were searched.


Eligible studies were required to include an examination of motor function in children (0–24 months) with later diagnosis of NDD by using standardized assessment tools.


Data were extracted by 4 independent researchers. The quality of the studies was assessed by using the Standard Quality Assessment Criteria for Evaluating Primary Research Papers from a Variety of Fields checklist.


Twenty-five studies were included in this review; in most of the studies, the authors examined children with later autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Early motor impairments were detected in children later diagnosed with ASD. The meta-analysis results indicated that differences in fine, gross, and generalized motor functions between the later ASD and typically developing groups increased with age. Motor function across different NDD groups was found to be mixed.


Results may not be applicable to children with different types of NDD not reported in this review.


Early motor impairments are evident in children later diagnosed with ASD. More research is needed to ascertain the clinical utility of motor impairment detection as an early transdiagnostic marker of NDD risk.

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