Head lag in infants at risk for autism: A preliminary study

Joanne E. Flanagan, Rebecca Landa, Anjana Bhat, Margaret Bauman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

169 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE. Poor postural control during pull-to-sit is a predictor of developmental disruption in cerebral palsy and preterm populations but has not been examined in infants at risk for autism. We examined the association between head lag during pull-to-sit at age 6 mo and autism risk status. METHOD. High-risk participants were siblings of children with autism. We studied one sample of 40 highrisk infants prospectively from 6-36 mo and obtained diagnostic classifications of autism or no autism. We conducted a subsequent between-group comparison with a new sample of 20 high-risk and 21 low-risk infants. RESULTS. Head lag was significantly associated with autism spectrum disorder at 36 mo (p 5 .020) and was more frequently observed in high-risk than in low-risk infants (p 5 .018). CONCLUSION. Head lag with other alterations in early development may be associated with autism risk and may serve as an early indicator of neurodevelopmental disruption. Results have clinical implications for occupational therapists in early intervention practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)577-585
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Occupational Therapy
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Autistic disorder
  • Infants
  • Motor skills disorders
  • Postural balance
  • Risk factor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Occupational Therapy


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