The University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) is currently in the midst of a three-year study, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. This study is working to investigate the impact of a fundamental movement skill intervention (throwing, kicking, catching, jumping, etc.) for 3 to 5 year old children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
According to Dr. Meghann Lloyd, Associate Professor, Faculty of Health Sciences at UOIT and Research Associate Grandview Children’s Centre, this is a 12-week intervention.
How does it work?
During the intervention, “Group 1 receives the intervention right away; Group 2 receives the intervention 12 weeks later. All children receive the intervention. It is a play-based motor skill intervention where we hope motor skills improve, but also social, behaviour and communication skills as well,” says Dr. Lloyd.
So far, they have done several small studies and the results have led the UOIT team to believe this intervention will be a positive experience for the children with important developmental outcomes.
“We do a series of assessments to understand whether the intervention had an impact. These assessments happen three times and include two direct motor skill assessments like throwing, kicking, catching etcetera and have the parents fill out a number of different questionnaires,” says Dr. Lloyd. “In addition to the assessments, we also have three play-dates where we video record the children playing to see if the intervention on motor skills results in the children using their new skills in free play.”
During the intervention, all parents are invited to be in the room and when appropriate are invited to participate in the intervention with their children. The ratio of staff to children is approximately 1:2 as the intervention groups include 4 to 5 children per group.
What are the expected results for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder?
“Previous studies we have completed have shown that we can improve motor skills of young children with ASD, and there are also important gains in social, behavoiur and communication domains,” says Dr. Lloyd. “We expect the same results in this study and we are interested in how these positive changes impact on play behaviour, too.”
This study is just entering year two, so the team doesn’t yet have complete results to share, however Dr. Lloyd says that the “preliminary analysis of the first cohorts is showing some very positive outcomes. Parents have also reported that they have found the study to be a positive experience for both them and their children.”
Dr. Lloyd is incredibly happy with how the study has progressed.
“So far, I couldn’t be more pleased with the results. The children are having fun, and at the same time working on critical play skills,” says Dr. Lloyd.
Interested? There are spots available!
Right now, Lloyd’s team is working on recruiting more children for the upcoming fall and winter. All children with ASD between the ages of 3 to 5 years old are invited to participate. Please email or call Dr. Lloyd (firstname.lastname@example.org or (905)-721-8668 ext. 5988).
If you want to know more about the ins and outs of why Dr. Lloyd is focusing on this work, check out her TedX Talk on the topic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8bCG_y84gY