The levels of physical activity and motor skills in young children with and without autism spectrum disorder, aged 2-5 years

Autism. 2018 May;22(4):414-423. doi: 10.1177/1362361316683889. Epub 2017 Mar 1.


Autism spectrum disorder is the fastest growing developmental disability in the United States. As such, there is an unprecedented need for research examining factors contributing to the health disparities in this population. This research suggests a relationship between the levels of physical activity and health outcomes. In fact, excessive sedentary behavior during early childhood is associated with a number of negative health outcomes. A total of 53 children participated in this study, including typically developing children (mean age = 42.5 ± 10.78 months, n = 19) and children with autism spectrum disorder (mean age = 47.42 ± 12.81 months, n = 34). The t-test results reveal that children with autism spectrum disorder spent significantly less time per day in sedentary behavior when compared to the typically developing group ( t(52) = 4.57, p < 0.001). Furthermore, the results from the general linear model reveal that there is no relationship between motor skills and the levels of physical activity. The ongoing need for objective measurement of physical activity in young children with autism spectrum disorder is of critical importance as it may shed light on an often overlooked need for early community-based interventions to increase physical activity early on in development.

Keywords: autism spectrum disorders; motor skills; physical activity; preschool children.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / psychology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child Development
  • Child, Preschool
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Skills*
  • Sedentary Behavior