Natalia Neophytou

Natalia Neophytou


Natalia Neophytou


Natalia Neophytou, [MSc(Med)][BHSc(Hons)Biokinetics] was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. Natalia has a Masters degree in the field of Exercise Science at the University of the Witwatersrand. Her study was entitled “The efficacy of a 12 week exercise intervention in adolescents aged 11-16 years in adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder”. She is currently perusing her PhD in the field of Autism Spectrum Disorder. She is a lecturer at the Centre for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine and runs her own private Biokinetics practice where she treats patients who have orthopedic problems, chronic diseases, and neurological conditions.

She has a particular interest in helping to improve motor deficits in individuals with ASD, using exercise as the primary modality. She has published 4 papers in various journals and has research interests in exercise as a means of rehabilitation in individuals with ASD, isokinetic testing and neurological rehabilitation. She coordinates the exercise science undergraduate course at Wits university, supervises interns and helps run many research projects.

Natalia is also an avid artist and particularly enjoys oil painting. She is currently working on a project to develop appropriate colouring in/ activity books for individuals with ASD.

The perceptions and expectations of parents, teachers and caregivers on the current motor assessment tools available for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder

N Neophytou,  MSc (Med) Biokinetics K E Pelser, BHSc Hons Biokinetics   

Faculty of Health Sciences; University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

Background: There is evidence of impaired motor proficiency in individuals with ASD; however regular motor skill assessment is not readily done, nor done at regular intervals within this population. Furthermore, when/if motor assessments are conducted the use of non ASD specific motor assessment tools are used as ASD specific tools do not currently exist.

Objectives: The objectives for this study were to 1) Determine the knowledge, perceptions and expectations of parents, teachers and caregivers on the current use of motor assessment tools available for the ASD population, 2) Determine the perceptions and expectations of the development of a motor assessment tool specific to individuals with ASD and 3) To determine which are the most commonly deficient motor skills in individuals with ASD to inform development of a motor assessment tool for individuals with ASD.

Methods: A descriptive study describing the perceptions and expectations of parents, teachers and caregivers of children with ASD was conducted using an online questionnaire created through Google Drive. The online questionnaire was validated by two experts in the field of autism prior to it being distributed to participants. The online questionnaire was made up of 20 close-ended questions and included questions regarding the knowledge, perception of current motor assessment tools as well as the expectations for a ASD specific motor tool for individuals with ASD. Forty three participants completed the questionnaire online. Responses were automatically captured and collated via Google Drive. Descriptive statistics were used for demographic, perception and expectation data.

Results:  Fourteen teachers, 8 caregivers and 21 parents (of a child with ASD) completed the online questionnaire (n=43).  Twenty six individuals stated that there are no adequate motor assessment tools available to assess children with ASD.  Fifteen individuals were unaware of of whether the individuals (with ASD they were associated with) had undergone a motor assessment , while fifteen individuals stated that the individuals had done the Test of gross motor development. Fifteen  participants stated the Test for gross motor skills was adequate in testing children with ASD and 4 participants stated a more specific tool needs to be developed. Only n=6 stated a screening tool for ASD should assess motor skills however n=41 stated a motor assessment tool should be developed specifically for children with ASD. Balance, gross and fine motor skills, object control, co-ordination and posture were found to be the most common deficits and that a tool could be developed to include.

Conclusion:  Overall, the perceptions of the current motor assessment tools are poor, with very few participants being aware of available tools and the appropriateness thereof. Expectations are high in what motor assessment tools should assess. Overall it is evident that a more specific tool needs to be developed for individuals with ASD. Parents, teachers and caregivers were highly aware of the motor deficits found in individuals with ASD, and agree they need to be readily assessed.

All session by Natalia Neophytou