A Comparison of Spatial-Temporal Gait Variability in Over-Ground and Treadmill Walking in Children with Autism

René Ubaldo Sanchez, University of Texas at El Paso


Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) experience an increased sedentary lifestyle which results in elevated risk for being overweight and obese. A low-cost and viable solution to increase physical activity while accommodating for social-behavioral barriers such as stereotypy, aggressive, or non-verbal characteristics, may be treadmill-related interventions. Gait variability during treadmill ambulation has not been extensively researched in the ASD population ,therefore the aim of this study was to quantify the acute effects of treadmill usage on spatial-temporal gait parameter variability when compared to overground walking. Three-dimensional kinematic data were obtained through motion analysis where 5 children with ASD were outfitted with retroreflective markers on their lower extremities. Participants walked overground across a10-meter walkway for 12 trials, then on a treadmill for 5-minutes continuously; both conditions were at self-selected pace. Variability was computed via coefficient of variation for step width, double limb support, and bilateral stride length and step length. Then variables of interest were assessed through dependent samples t-tests to identify significant differences between conditions(α = 0.05). Analysis revealed no statistically significant differences were observed between overground and treadmill gait conditions, which contradicts previous findings. In neurotypical literature, gait modifications were observed during treadmill gait due to equilibrium maintenance from the change in external stimuli during gait whereas unchanged spatial-temporal gait variability in this ASD sample may suggest posture instability and a system that is less adaptable to perturbations as optimal levels of variability were fluctuating. Future research should focus on trip/fall risk as well as gait modulation to gain a better understanding as to why variability during TM gait may go unchanged in children with ASD.

Subject Area

Biomechanics|Disability studies

Recommended Citation

Sanchez, René Ubaldo, "A Comparison of Spatial-Temporal Gait Variability in Over-Ground and Treadmill Walking in Children with Autism" (2022). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI30242448.