For more than a year, researchers at the University of Texas at the El Paso’s Stanley E. Fulton Motion Research and Analysis Lab at the College of Health Sciences have been using real-time 3D animation to study the disorders. motor in children with autism spectrum disorders. (ASD). Their goal is to understand how children with autism can acquire motor skills, so that they can receive effective therapies.
The results of their study, titled “Children with Autism Show More Individualized Responses to Live Animated Biofeedback Than Typically Developing Children,” were recently published in the journal of Perceptual and motor skills. The article’s publication coincides with National Autism Awareness Month in April.
“The biggest advantage of this study is that when teaching or coaching new movements to an autistic person, the teacher or trainer must understand the specific motor learning characteristics of the autistic individual.” said Jeffrey Eggleston, Ph.D., assistant professor and director of the Kinesiology and Gait laboratory. He is the lead author of the study. “They have to look specifically at the needs of each child because each child is different.”
Other authors of the study include Alyssa N. Olivas, doctoral student in biomedical engineering; Heather R. Vanderhoof and Emily A. Chavez, students in the Interdisciplinary Doctorate in Health Sciences (IHS) program; Carla Alvarado, MD, board-certified psychiatrist; and Jason B. Boyle, Ph.D., associate professor and interim chair of kinesiology at UTEP.
Over 80% of children with ASD have gross motor problems, such as problems with balance and coordination, which can interfere with their communication and social interactions.
The 18-month UTEP study incorporated live animated biofeedback to teach 15 children with ASD ages 8 to 17 to do a squat, a strength exercise that works multiple muscle groups in the lower extremities. from the body.
The researchers compared their movement patterns to children without the disorder. They found that children with ASD displayed highly individualized responses to live animated biofeedback, far more so than children with typical development, Eggleston said.
In the lab, children had 1-inch cubes called inertial measurement unit (IMU) sensors attached to their pelvis, thighs, legs, and feet. They followed an animated model on a computer screen, which showed them how to squat. The children would then try to perform the squat without watching the animation.
The IMU sensors captured the movement of the child’s lower limbs. The data was relayed to a computer graphics program via Bluetooth, which was translated into a skeletal animation of the child crouching and then standing on the computer screen.
The study, which took place before the COVID-19 pandemic, was funded with a grant of nearly $ 15,000 from the J. Edward and Helen MC Stern Foundation and the Department of Kinesiology at UTEP.
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