Exercise as it relates to Disease/Sustaining physical activity engagement in those with autism

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This wiki fact sheet is based on the journal article "Increasing Physical Activity in Individuals With Autism"[1]

Sustaining physical activity engagement in those with autism

What is the Background for this research[edit | edit source]

Autism is a complex neurobiological disorder that spans for the entirety of the sufferers life. Autism sufferers have difficulties with social and communication skills which lead to numerous behavioural challenges. It is a lifelong developmental condition effecting the way individuals relate to environments and other people. Sufferers have difficult ways of learning, paying attention and reacting to stimuli. Autism is part of a group of disorders known as ASD Autism Spectrum Disorder. Most causes for the disorder are unknown and it’s estimated that 1 in 100 people are diagnosed with the disorder and require specialist support. It is estimated that almost 230,000 Australians suffer from the disorder with boys almost 4 times higher in numbers than girls.[2][3]

Where is the research from?[edit | edit source]

This research was conducted at a Canadian school for individuals with severe disabilities both outdoors on a standard soccer field and indoors on rainy days.[1] This research was conducted by Teri Todd, MA, (Doctoral candidate at McGill University.) and Greg Reid, PhD, (A professor of kinesiology and physical education at McGill University)[1]

What kind of research was this?[edit | edit source]

This was a 6-month outdoor physical activity program using a changing conditions design.[1]

What did the research involve?[edit | edit source]

In this 6 month outdoor physical activity program, the researchers used a changing conditions design.[1] The program was divided into 6 phases with 28 sessions where reinforcers were used during certain sessions.[1] Verbal cuing(positive reinforcements) , self-monitoring board(sticker chart to emulate success) and edible reinforcements(gummie bears,chips,lollies) were used in the study.[1] Participants "snow shoed" (walking in snow shoes), walked and jogged for 30-min sessions throughout the program.[1]

What were the basic results?[edit | edit source]

Basic results were very similar with each participant seeing an increase towards sustaining physical activity throughout the program.[1] The three test participants Tom, Mike and Robert each increased the number of completed circuits with all increasing the distance walked/jogged throughout the 28 weeks of the program.[1] Toms snowshoeing distance increased by 200m over 9 sessions with the distance walked/jogged increasing from 840m to 2100m which is an increase of 1200m over 21 sessions with decreased edible reinforcements.[1] Mikes snowshoeing also increased by 200m over 9 sessions and doubled the distance walked/jogged from 1140m to 2280m which is an increase of 1140 km over the 17 sessions remaining.[1] Robert doubled his snowshoeing distance from 200m to 400m over the first 9 sessions he also increased his distance walked/jogged from 410m to 1240 km over a 30 minute session for the remainder of his sessions.[1] Robert did not cover the same distance overall as the other participant having missed sessions through illness.[1] However the results clearly show increases in sustained physical activity with uses of edible reinforcements, verbal cueing and a self monitoring board to project pride in successful accomplishments.[1]

How did the researchers interpret the results?[edit | edit source]

The researchers determined that light exercise with verbal cuing, edible reinforcements and self monitoring boards were associated with increasing the results of sustaining physical activity engagement in the autistic participants.[1] The researchers determined that those with autism lack the motivation to exercise for sustained durations meaning they do not acquire the health benefits from 30 minutes of sustained exercise which is proven to be highly beneficial to ones cardio vascular health and fitness.[1] By adding the elements of cuing, lollies and stickers the researchers produced positive results in engaging and sustaining physical activity with the participants.[1]

What conclusions should be taken away from this research?[edit | edit source]

The conclusion that should be taken away from this research is that physical activity is beneficial to ones health and no matter what body type, age or disability there are massive benefits in finding the motivational structures to enable anyone to engage in physical activity for a sustained duration. To promote health and well being in those with autism this research in particular provides a window into ways in which even those with behavioral, motivational & social disabilities can engage and benefit from sustained physical activity over a duration of 6 months leading to a better healthier life. With this research being completed in 2006 and not yet 10 years old, its not clear if this is the most beneficial way to engage those with autism into physical activity for sustained durations with this research only having 3 participants. However there are more papers on similar types of studies that have produced similar results but I believe more research needs to be conducted to know if this is in fact the most beneficial way to sustain physical activity engagement in those with autism.[4]

What are the implications of this research?[edit | edit source]

This research gives an implication that given the amount of data collected from the three participants using the

  • Verbal Cuing[1]
  • Self Monitoring Boards[1]
  • Edible Reinforcements[1]

methods, there will be an increase to the amount of sustained physical activity engagement however the limitations to the research is that there are only three participants.[1] To collect more accurate data a larger population size is needed and a wider range of physical activities would suggest a stronger conclusion to the results. Future studies should include a larger population to draw data from and investigate whether this approach is sustainable for a participants who are doing this method in home based environment.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v Todd, T., and G. Reid. 'Increasing Physical Activity In Individuals With Autism'. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities 21.3 (2006): 167-176. Web
  2. Autismspectrum.org.au,. 'What Is Autism? | Autism Spectrum'. N.p., 2015. Web. 18 Sept. 2015.
  3. Better Health Channel,. 'Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) - Better Health Channel'. N.p., 2015. Web. 18 Sept. 2015.
  4. Shepard, Roy J. 'Curricular Physical Activity And Academic Performance'. Pediatric Exercise Science 9 (1997): 113 -126. Print.