This study, utilizing key concepts from Dynamical Systems Theory (DST), seeks to build a method for teaching gross motor skills to children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). As the rate of ASD increases, it is becoming evident, in addition to deficits in social/communicative behaviors, that there is a deficit in gross motor ability. As this area of research is a relatively new focus, little has been done to focus interventions on improving gross motor skill. To address this issue, this study proposes using DST to understand constraints (e.g. task, individual, and environmental) affecting movement and use constraints to teach gross motor skills to children with ASD. By presenting a set guideline for constraining variables involved with movement, the researcher proposes that children with ASD will be able to learn motor tasks more effectively. Using both quantitative and qualitative measures, this study seeks to understand a) What effects do constraints have on the development of fundamental gross motor patterns of children with ASD? b) If changes exist, do they last in the absence of constraints? c) What influences do changes in gross motor patterns have on adaptive behavior skills? and d) How do changes in gross motor skills affect other facets of a child’s life? By understanding how constraints affect motor patterns and how those changes ripple across a child’s life, children with ASD will be more effective in developing lasting changes in their motor learning.
Dissertation topic -- Projected start date of August 2015
Currently seeking fellowship through Autism Speaks.