Date of Completion

Spring 5-1-2021

Thesis Advisor(s)

Dr. Sudha Srinivasan; Dr. John Redden

Honors Major

Physiology and Neurobiology


Kinesiology | Neuroscience and Neurobiology


Emerging evidence indicates that around 80-100% of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have motor impairments in gross motor skills, strength, and endurance. In the current study, which is a multisite collaboration with the physical therapy programs at the University of Connecticut and the University of Delaware, we are assessing the effects of two types of movement-based interventions compared to a standard-of-care seated play control intervention on motor performance in children with ASD. This thesis will analyze data from one of the movement training groups, i.e., the play group, that involved children engaging in activities based on music, dance, and yoga. Training was provided two times per week for eight weeks, with each session lasting 1-1.5 hours. Outcome measures included the locomotor subtest of a standardized test of motor performance (the Test of Gross Motor Development, TGMD-2) that assessed performance of seven fundamental motor skills, as well as a custom-developed strength test that assessed the strength of major muscles in the arms, legs, and trunk. Both the TGMD-2 and strength test were conducted at pretest and posttest. Preliminary data from nine children in the group indicated improvements in terms of standard and percentile scores on the TGMD-2 with improvements noticed in all seven skills assessed. There were no improvements in the strength test from pretest to posttest. We provide preliminary evidence for the utility of play-based interventions in improving motor performance in children with ASD. Future research should replicate our results with larger sample sizes.