Date of Completion

Spring 5-1-2021

Thesis Advisor(s)

Sudha Srinivasan

Honors Major

Biological Sciences


Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is characterized by hallmark impairments in the social communication domain. However, there has recently been a growing recognition of the movement coordination difficulties that are also pervasive in a vast majority of this population. The Play and Move Study is an ongoing multi-site randomized controlled trial at the Universities of Connecticut and Delaware that aims to target both the perceptuo-motor and socialization impairments in children ages 6-12 with ASD. The study compares the effects of two types of whole-body, gross- motor interventions to a standard-of-care seated play intervention on multiple skills in children with ASD. Therefore, the study has 3 intervention groups, namely, a music- and dance-based “play” intervention, a general exercise-based “move” training, and a fine motor activity-based “seated play” intervention. This thesis will focus on the “play” group that receives a play-based intervention that incorporates music, yoga, dancing, and other creative movements. Drumming is one of the integral music-making activities practiced during the program to improve multi-limb coordination and rhythmic imitation capabilities of the participants. In this paper, we assessed the drumming performance of 9 participants using a custom-developed, structured coding scheme. The scheme assessed imitation error during drumming performance within 6 spatial and temporal error categories: movement precision, movement modulation, symmetry/reciprocity, pace, rhythmicity, and segmentation. A within-subjects pre-post comparison of drumming performance from before and after the 8-week intervention was conducted and we found that the participants improved in 5 out of the 6 error categories. Moreover, participants had fewer spatial than temporal errors during drumming performance. The study’s results may be used to advocate for the value of music and play-based movement interventions to improve imitation and bilateral motor coordination skills of children with ASD.