Difficulty performing age-appropriate motor skills affects up to 83% of children with autism spectrum disorder. This systematic review examined the effect of motor and physical activity intervention on motor outcomes of children with autism spectrum disorder and the effect of motor learning strategies on motor skill acquisition, retention, and transfer.
Six databases were searched from 2000 to 2019. Forty-one studies were included: 34 intervention studies and 7 motor learning studies. The overall quality of the evidence was low. Participants included 1173 children with autism spectrum disorder ranging from 3 to 19 years.
Results from level II and III intervention studies supported that participation outcomes improved with a physical education intervention; activity outcomes improved with aquatic, motor activity, motor skill, and simulated horse riding interventions; and body structure and function outcomes improved with aquatic, exergaming, motor activity, motor skill, and simulated horse riding interventions. Results from level II and III motor learning studies supported that motor skill acquisition improved with visual, versus verbal, instructions but was not influenced by differences in instructional personnel. More rigorous research on motor intervention is needed with well-controlled study designs, adequate sample sizes, and manualized protocols. In addition, research on motor learning strategies is warranted as it generalizes across motor interventions.
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