Being able to move efficiently is one of the critical factors needed to develop and maintain an active lifestyle, which contributes to both the quality and longevity of one’s life. Conversely, failure to develop these abilities places one at risk of acquiring a number of health risks such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol. As result of these trends, research over the years in the areas of motor development and physical fitness has concentrated on identifying physical and motor developmental benchmarks, valid and reliable measures of these traits, as well as the development and evaluation of programs to develop these traits in both children and adults with and without disabilities. The purpose of this chapter is to review the research related to motor development and physical fitness in relation to children and youth with intellectual disability (ID), learning disability (LD), emotional disturbance (ED), and autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
This chapter is divided into five sections. The first four sections review the research related to physical and motor development in students labeled as ID, LD, ED, and ASD. The research reviewed was delimited to articles published in the past 32 years and to articles listed in the SPORTDiscus database, which includes the primary journals in the field, as well as select earlier studies and studies in other journals that had significant impact on research in the field. The last section of the chapter identifies a number of issues and challenges facing future research on physical and motor development in students labeled ID, LD, ED, and ASD as well as some recommendations on how these issues and challenges may be addressed.