Graduate and Postdoctoral Research Symposium 2020 has ended
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Hilary Yip

A Rhythmic Cueing in Martial Arts Protocol for the Motor Skills of Children with Autism: An Exploratory Pilot Study
Oral Presentation
Ph.D. in Music Education
Social interactions of children with autism may be impacted by motor differences. Previous research shows that motor skills of children with autism improve following martial arts programs and rhythmic interventions. Rhythm and motor skills are processed in similar neural areas, thus, adding rhythmic cues to martial arts may enhance motor execution. The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of rhythmic cueing in martial arts on gross motor skills of children with autism. In addition, this study sought to determine whether children with autism can learn martial arts movements.

Ten male children ages 7 to 12 years old and diagnosed with autism with no martial arts experience participated in the study. Each participant received eight, 30-min martial arts sessions with rhythmic cueing over a 4-week period. Each session included a bow and meditation period at the beginning and end of the session, stretching exercises, and learning and reviewing martial arts movements (basic strikes, kicks, blocks, stances, and movement sequences). Rhythmic cues consisted of percussion sounds that coordinate and guide each martial arts movement’s range of motion, starting and stopping points, timing, and amount of muscle effort needed. Data were collected using the gross motor subtests from the Bruininks-Oseretsky Test of Motor Proficiency (2nd ed.) (Bruininks & Bruininks, 2005) that assess bilateral coordination, balance, strength, and running speed and agility. Additionally, a Mastery of Martial Arts Test assessed participant’s ability to perform 15 martial arts movements.

Results showed that following the protocol, participants exhibited statistically significant improvements pre- to post-test in bilateral coordination and body coordination skills (composite of bilateral coordination and balance) and generated large effect sizes, thus indicating practical significance. All other measures showed improvements at a non-significant level, with the exception of running speed and agility, which showed a decline. Furthermore, children with autism demonstrated statistically significant improvements pre- to post-test in their performance of martial arts movements. Thus, findings demonstrate that the addition of rhythmic cues in martial arts instruction enhances motor execution of children with autism, specifically, bilateral coordination and body coordination, and that children with autism can learn martial arts movements.