The Effect of Task Modifications on the Fundamental Motor Skills of Boys on the Autism Spectrum: A Pilot Study

  • Andrew M. Colombo-DougovitoEmail author
  • Luke E. Kelly
  • Martin E. Block


A growing body of research has shown children on the autism spectrum are behind their peers developmentally in regard to their gross motor skill development. Given the increased risk for obesity and other health related co-occurring conditions associated with autism spectrum disorder, building foundational gross motor skills is vitally important so that individuals grow into physically active adults. However, the research on motor skill interventions for children on the autism spectrum is limited. Therefore, a multi-element multiple baseline across behaviors single subject design was employed to test the effectiveness of a motor intervention based on task modifications developed based on Dynamic Systems Theory. Using a purposive sample of two boys, aged 7 and 8 years, on the autism spectrum, task modifications were evaluated to understand the impact on the child’s motor performance and their performance’s persistence across two skills (i.e., horizontal jump and two-hand strike; P1jump-pre = 3; P1strike-pre = 4; P2jump-pre = 2; P2strike-pre = 2). As a result of the task modifications, both boys scores increased according to developed skill criterion and the raw scores of the Test of Gross Motor Development, 3rd Edition (Ulrich 2018; P1jump-post = 6; P1strike-post = 6; P2jump-post = 6; P2strike-post = 8). Once the modifications were faded, both boy’s two-hand strike performance persisted; however, one boy’s horizontal jump performance returned to baseline levels. Yet, for this still there remained a high level of non-overlap (90.5%). This study demonstrates the potential impact that an intervention designed around task modifications can have; however, it also shows that interventions may need to be designed at an individual level and contain the flexibility to adjust to the needs of the child.


Gross motor development Autism spectrum disorder Dynamic systems theory Constraint-based approach Fundamental motor skills 



The authors have no funding to report.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Study protocols were reviewed and approved by a university internal review board prior to participant recruitment.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Conflict of Interest

Andrew Colombo-Dougovito declares that he has no conflict of interest. Luke Kelly declare that he has no conflict of interest. Martin Block declares that he has no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Kinesiology, Health Promotion, & RecreationUniversity of North TexasDentonUSA
  2. 2.Department of KinesiologyUniversity of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA

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