Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 49, Issue 2, pp 669–682 | Cite as

Distractor Inhibition in Autism Spectrum Disorder: Evidence of a Selective Impairment for Individuals with Co-occurring Motor Difficulties

  • Ebony LindorEmail author
  • Nicole Rinehart
  • Joanne Fielding
Original Paper


Although most researchers agree that individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) exhibit atypical attention, there is little consensus on the exact nature of their deficits. We explored whether attentional control in ASD varies as a function of motor proficiency. Nineteen children with ASD and 26 typically-developing controls completed the Movement Assessment Battery for Children and two ocular motor tasks requiring them to generate a saccade toward, and fixate, a visual target in the presence or absence of a distractor. The ASD group demonstrated poorer accuracy than typically-developing controls when distractors were present. Importantly, however, ASD symptomology was only related to poorer accuracy in individuals with motor difficulties. These findings suggest that distractor inhibition may be selectively impaired in this subgroup.


Autism Motor skills Saccades Attention Distractor inhibition 



We would like to thank the paediatricians at Melbourne Children’s Clinic for supporting the study and assisting with recruitment. We are also especially grateful to our participants and their families for generously offering to take part in this study. This paper has been prepared as part of a doctoral thesis.

Author Contributions

EL and JF designed the study. NR advised on participant-related processes and assisted EL with recruitment. EL collected the data and performed data analysis. All authors were involved in manuscript drafting and approved the final manuscript.


The work was supported by doctoral research funding from the School of Psychological Sciences and Monash Institute of Cognitive and Clinical Neurosciences, Monash University, Clayton, VIC, 3800, Australia.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

NR has received funding from the Ferrero Group Australia, Moose Toys and the Australian Football League. Ferrero Group Australia, Moose Toys and the Australian Football League had no role in this research including the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data, writing of the manuscript, and decision to submit the article for publication. NR has received speaker honorarium from Novartis (2002), Pfzier (2006) and Nutricia (2007). JF has also received research grants for Novartis (2015) and Sanofi-Genzyme (2017). NR is a Director of the Amaze Board (Autism Victoria). EL, NR and JF each declares that she has no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Psychological Sciences, Monash Institute of Cognitive and Clinical NeurosciencesMonash UniversityClaytonAustralia
  2. 2.Faculty of Health, School of Psychology, Deakin Child Study CentreDeakin UniversityGeelongAustralia
  3. 3.Department of Neuroscience, Central Clinical SchoolMonash UniversityMelbourneAustralia

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