Date Approved

2021

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

Committee Member

Jin Bo, PhD

Committee Member

Renee Lajiness-O’Neill, PhD

Committee Member

Thomas Waltz, PhD, PhD

Committee Member

Kristen Kalymon, PhD, BCBA-D

Abstract

Fifty to 100% of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) exhibit motor skills deficits. In addition to motor skill deficits, children with ASD have been reported to engage in less physical activity than their neurotypical peers. Motor skill deficits and limited physical activity may impact functioning in other domains, including physical fitness and adaptive skills. The present study examined the relationship between motor skills, physical activity, physical fitness, and adaptive skills in children with a range of ASD features. A sample of 41 children ages 7-12 years participated in the study. Participants and their parents completed assessments of motor skills, physical activity, physical fitness, and adaptive skills, and monitored physical activity using accelerometers for five days. Results indicated an association between features of ASD and other functional impairments, including motor skill performance, adaptive skills, and physical fitness. Although ASD features are related to motor skill performance, this relationship was not explained by amount of physical activity. Overall, objective physical activity was not associated with key study variables, including ASD features, motor skill performance, and physical fitness. Despite this lack of association, the current findings have important implications for the development of motor skill interventions. This study also offers novel insights into the convergent and discriminant validity of widely used objective and subjective measures of physical activity and motor skill performance. Identifying motor skills deficits and related functional impairments and understanding how they are related is a critical step toward the development of effective interventions to address these impairments in children with ASD.

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