Northern California Autism Symposium 2018

Chico, CA


Task modifications to effectively build gross motor skills in autistic youth


Andrew M. Colombo-Dougovito, PhD, CAPE


University of North Texas

session abstract: 

Autistic youth may face unique challenges building gross motor skills and are often delayed in their development when compared to same-age peers not on the autism spectrum. This delay can have an impact on the level of engagement in physical activity throughout the lifespan and impact opportunities for social activity. This presentation will detail  the current state of gross motor intervention for autistic individuals, the importance of motor planning, as well as potential benefits from engaging in physical activity. One specific strategy that will be discussed is task modifications based on dynamic systems theory (DST). This theory provides a foundation to build impactful instruction for children and adolescents on the autism spectrum. DST posits that disability is not a barrier to overcome, but a “constraint” that can influence or dissuade certain movements. Through task modifications, motor performance can be positively influenced into a more mature, efficient motor pattern.

Few motor interventions for children on the autism spectrum have taken motor skills into consideration; this approach is one of a handful and has shown positive support for building motor skills in children on the autism spectrum. Utilizing Dynamic Systems Theory, attendees will learn practical strategies to (a) break skills into teachable components, and (b) present simple task modifications/environmental cues to help students on the autism spectrum understand how to perform each component correctly. Through this strategy, participants will be more confident in their approach to working with and have greater success in building motor skills of children on the autism spectrum.

download presentation slides