Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational & Clinical Studies

First Committee Member

Susan Miller

Second Committee Member

Tom Pierce

Third Committee Member

Nancy Sileo

Fourth Committee Member

Richard Tandy

Number of Pages



Development and Implementation of a Video-Based Physical Activity Preference Assessment for Children with Autism and Their Parents

Individuals with autism often lack the necessary motivation to engage in physical activity. In addition, due to the characteristics defining autism, such as deficits in social skills, motor coordination, and behavior, individuals with autism are less likely to participate in physical activity with their peers than individuals without autism. Additionally, poor motor functioning, sedentary lifestyle, lack of information and lack of access to physical activity may be barriers to physical activity for individuals with developmental disabilities. These barriers, in addition to the characteristics particular to autism spectrum disorder (i.e., social skill deficits and challenging behavior) may preclude children with autism from participating in physical activity. The selection of preferred activities and items that serve as reinforcers is often determined through the use of preference assessments. These assessments have been widely reported in the literature as effective procedures for identifying preferences for individuals with autism.

The purpose of this investigation was to explore self-perceptions and parental perceptions related to physical activity preferences of children with autism. Specifically, the study involved the development and administration of a forced-choice assessment tool designed to measure physical activity preferences as they relate to social and environmental contexts.

The participants in this study were 30 children with autism (24 males and 6 females) between the ages of 5 and 14 years. In addition to the 30 child participants, a total of 30 parent participants (i.e., one parent of each child) were included in the study. The study took place at an autism treatment center located in a metropolitan city in the southwestern United States.

The study was conducted in three phases. Phase one involved the development of the video-based preference assessment (i.e., Physical Activity Choice Assessment (PACA). Phase two consisted of administration of the assessment to the child and parent participants. Phase three involved treatment of the data to answer research questions related to the study.

The results indicated that the children with autism who participated in this study selected trampoline, bowling, and bike riding as the most preferred activities. The results also indicated that the child participants preferred to engage in physical activity with friends and in the home setting. The results related to child-parent comparisons for each component indicated a high percentage of agreement related to physical activity preferences and low agreement for social and environmental preferences.


Autistic children; Developmental disabilities; Exercise; Exercise for children; Motivation (Psychology)


Exercise Science | Special Education and Teaching

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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