Motor skills, social skills, and participation in social and physical activities for autistic children


Children are socially occupied beings living in a social world; however, due to various individual and environmental factors, autistic children are at risk for lower participation in social and physical activities. In recent qualitative work, caregivers and instructors described how proficiency in motor and social domains underlie autistic children's motivation, confidence, and competence to participate in social and physical activities. Both groups acknowledged the heterogeneity inherent to autism, which limits a one-size-fits-all solution to increasing participation. As a complement, the current quantitative work assessed the relationship between social and motor skills in autistic children, and the association with participation in social and physical activities at home, school, and in the community. Caregivers of 5- to 10-year-old autistic children completed the Movement Assessment Battery – Second Edition (MABC-2) checklist, Social Responsiveness Scale – Second Edition (SRS-2), and Participation and Environment Measure – Children and Youth (PEM-CY). Total scores from the MABC-2 checklist and SRS-2 were computed. Data from the PEM-CY included participation frequency, percent activities of participation, and average involvement of participation at home, school, and in the community. Regression analyses demonstrated that social skills significantly predicted frequency of participation at school, but motor skills did not. These results highlight the need for a person-centered approach that considers experiential aspects of children's participation, and partitioning between-person differences from within-person differences with change-sensitive methodologies.

Acknowledgments: This work was funded by a SSHRC insight development grant