A fundamental motor skill intervention using a dynamic systems approach
Andrew M. Colombo-Dougovito & Martin E. Block
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex neuro-developmental disorder characterized by deficits in social communication and pervasive repetitive behaviors (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). In addition to the hallmark characterizations of this condition is a growing body of research (Lloyd, MacDonald, & Lord, 2013; Liu, Hamilton, Davis, ElGarhy, 2014; Staples & Reid, 2010) that suggests that individuals with ASD also demonstrate delays in the development of gross motor skills. Despite mounting evidence of delay, few interventions have targeted gross motor skills as an outcome (Staples, MacDonald, Zimmer, 2012). Three recent studies (Bremer, Crozier, & Lloyd, 2016; Bremer & Lloyd, 2014; Ketcheson, Hauck, & Ulrich, 2016) demonstrate the increasing awareness of this issue; however, continued theory-based research is needed to build an effective motor intervention for children with ASD.
The purpose of this parallel, convergent mixed methods design study was to test the validity and effectiveness of a fundamental motor skill (FMS) intervention for children with ASD that uses dynamic systems theory (DST; Newell, 1986). The intervention was based on intentional manipulations of task constraints—hereafter referred to as task modifications—to build FMS. This presentation will focus on the quantitative results, which focus on the fundamental motor intervention.
A purposive sample of 5 children (4 boys, 1 girl; Mage=7.92, SD=1.09) with ASD—in addition to two comparison (one age-matched and one developmentally-match) groups of children without ASD—completed a 6-week fundamental motor intervention with a retention assessment at 4 weeks post-intervention. Participants were provided instruction on one locomotor and one manipulative skill, based on pre-assessment of the Test of Gross Motor Development, 3rd ed. A repeated-measures ANOVA was done to analyze data collected during the intervention.
Overall, a significant difference was found in motor scores across time, F(1.65,19.76) = 874.09, p < .001, partial n2 = .99, and between groups across time, F(1.65,19.76) = 874.09, p < .001, partial n2 = .99. A post hoc Tukey’s pairwise comparison using a Bonferonni procedure was done to evaluate group differences. Significant differences were found between the ASD group and the developmental-match (p = .004) and age-match (p < .001) groups. Dependent t-tests using only data from the ASD group to understand how changes occurred over time found a significant increase between the pre- and post-assessments, t(4) = 4.98, p = .008, a significant decrease between the post- and retention assessments, t(4) = 4.52, p = .011, and a nonsignificant result between pre- and retention assessments, t(4) = 1.94, p = .124 (See Figure 1)
Data revealed that a motor intervention based on DST may: (a) significantly improve gross motor performance of children; (b) provide an effective means to build motor skills in children with ASD; and (c) allow for a high level of engagement and successful practice. Further, evidence reaffirms previous suggestions of significant motor delays in children with ASD and provides evidence that children with ASD may learn motor skills at rates closer to peers half their chronological age.