Researchers at the University of Texas have been investigating motor impairments in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) using real-time 3D animation, for more than a year now.

They want to understand how children with ASD can learn motor skills so they can recommend effective treatments.

The researchers published their study, titled “Children With Autism Exhibit More Individualized Responses to Live Animation Biofeedback Than Do Typically Developing Children,” in the Journal of Perceptual and Motor Skills.

They released their study in April – the National Autism Awareness Month.

The study’s lead author Jeffrey Eggleston said, “The greatest takeaway from this study is that when teaching or coaching new movements to an individual with autism, the teacher or coach needs to understand the individual with autism’s specific motor learning characteristics. They need to look specifically at each child’s needs because each child is different.”

Over 80% of children with autism have serious motor skills issues, such as problems with gait, balance, and coordination, which can greatly affect their communication and social interactions, according to Science Daily.

The researchers used live animation biofeedback to teach 15 children with ASD, who were between the ages of 8 and 17, how to do squats and strength-training exercises that work on multiple muscles in the lower extremities.

The team found that children with ASD displayed highly individualized responses to the live animation biofeedback, much more so than children with typical development, according to Eggleston.

The children involved in the study followed an animation model on a computer screen, showing them how to do a squat. They would then try to do the squat without looking at the animation.

IMU sensors were attached, which captured the movements of the children’s lower extremities. The data was then relayed to a computer graphics program through Bluetooth, which was transposed into a skeletal animation of the child squatting and then standing back up on the computer screen, according to Science Daily.

The study was started before the COVID-19 pandemic. It was funded through a nearly $15,000 grant from the J. Edward and Helen M. C. Stern Foundation and UTEP’s kinesiology department. The article was originally published online on Science Daily.