Determining intervention targets to promote positive trajectories of health for children with ASD
Children with ASD experience a range of health disparities, including high rates of obesity and inactivity. Participation in physical activity (PA) plays an integral role in the prevention of obesity and maintenance of a healthy weight, but a child must have the requisite levels of motor skill competence (MC) to maximize their opportunities for participation. Children with ASD with higher levels of MC benefit more during social-communication interventions because they have more opportunities to interact with peers during play. The relationship between PA and MC is also influenced by levels of fitness, a component of health that has not been examined empirically among children with ASD. While we know that children with ASD participate in less PA than children with typical development, we do not fully understand how MC and fitness influence PA participation or weight status. To understand the “key ingredients” needed for future interventions, a mixed methods design will be used to examine components of health (PA, sedentary behavior, MC, fitness, quality of life, weight status) and the relationships among these components between children with and without ASD. Rates of change will be examined over 18-months to inform which components of health drive the changes in the proposed relationships across time and development. This improved understanding will inform critical points of development for children with ASD, where each component may deferentially impact participation in PA.