Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Kinesiology (MKin)


Kinesiology and Physical Education


Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Dr. Michael Cinelli

Advisor Role



Individuals constantly navigate through a complex environment, stepping over and around obstacles in order to reach an end goal. Successful adaptive locomotion involves the integration of information from the three primary sensory systems: vision, somatosensory, and vestibular, in order to successfully reach an end goal. Obstacle crossing is a form of adaptive locomotion that demonstrates a clear relationship between perception and action integration, ensuring proper foot placement, step length, and walking speed. Moreover, the addition of a second obstacle within 1m from the first obstacle requires proper motor planning and anticipatory strategies in order to be successful. Previous research has found children’s obstacle crossing strategies differ from young adults. Children 7 years of age plan for the avoidance of two obstacles separately whereas young adults plan for the avoidance of both obstacles prior to crossing the first obstacle (Krell & Patla, 2002; Vallis & McFadyen, 2005; Berard & Vallis, 2006). However, it remains unclear whether children (8-12 years old) have difficulty with multisensory integration or anticipatory motor strategies resulting in differences in obstacle crossing techniques during a multiple obstacle crossing task. As well, it is unknown whether individuals with a neurodevelopmental disorder, such as Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), have difficulty with multisensory integration or anticipatory motor strategies resulting in coordination difficulties. Thus, the objective of this thesis was to examine the obstacle clearance characteristics during a multiple obstacle clearance task under various sensory conditions. Obstacle clearance behaviours were compared between children and young adults (Chapter 2), and between children with DCD and typically developing (TD) children (Chapter 3), to assess differences between stage of development and a motor deficit population. Children (N=16, =9years±1.07, eleven females), young adults (N=16, = 22 years±0.96, nine females), and children with DCD (N=3,=11years±1.41, one female) were instructed to walk along a 7m pathway to reach an end goal. The presence of none, one, or two obstacles (1.0m apart), projected on the ground, could appear at the start of the trial or two steps prior to obstacle clearance. Participants were aware the obstacles could appear during the trial and were instructed to step over the projected obstacles, trying not to step on the obstacles. Participants completed 18 trials on flat ground and 18 trials on foam terrain, for a total of 36 trials. Results from Chapter 2 (young adults and children) found that children (8-12 years) have difficulties with online control and motor planning strategies during a multiple obstacle clearance task. Children had high variability on obstacle clearance strategies when visual information about the obstacles was withheld until two steps prior to locomotion suggesting difficulties with online control. Moreover, children had difficulties with motor planning strategies and difficulty with multisensory integration compared to YA. When on a compliant surface, children increased their step length during obstacle clearance in order to counteract the instability when somatosensory information was reduced. The results from Chapter 3 found that obstacle clearance strategies may vary greatly between children with DCD based on an individual’s MABC-2 test score and co-morbid disorders. Children with DCD had high variability with medio-lateral center of mass at time of crossing compared to TD children.

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Available for download on Saturday, August 08, 2020