All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Fred J Biasini

Advisory Committee Members

Toby Long

Maria Hopkins

Kristi Menear

Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name by School

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) School of Health Professions


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that primarily affects social communication and behavior, however, a number of motor impairments have been identified in children with ASD. In children who are typically developing, the development of social, communication, and cognitive skills is thought to be influenced by motor development. However, the impact of these motor skill deficits on overall development in children with ASD is not yet known. The purpose of this dissertation was to explore the relationship between gross motor ability and social function and participation in young children with ASD. The first study described changes in peer preferences following an inclusive, preschool-based movement intervention program. It demonstrated that interventions delivered to children with and without ASD in a community-based setting are feasible and may have positive benefits for peer socialization in this population. The second study examined the concurrent validity of standardized tests used to assess motor skill ability. It indicated that the Peabody Developmental Motor Scales, Second Edition (PDMS-2) and the Miller Function and Participation Scales (M-FUN) demonstrate high agreement in this population and, thus, offers another option for assessment of motor skills. The third study described the relationship between gross motor skills and social function using correlation and regression. Overall gross motor skills and social function demonstrated moderate, but significant correlations. Motor components of body stability and ability to throw, catch, and kick a ball were predictive of social function. Taken together, these studies suggest that the relationship between motor and social development may be related and should continue to be explored. Future research should also explore the impact of inclusive, community-based motor interventions on social skills.



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