Exercise for Autism?
- Posted on Nov 29, 2016
A study was presented at the Academy of Pediatric Physical Therapy’s Association Section on Pediatrics at the 2016 conference on exercise programs for children with autism. The lead researcher, Susan Ronan DPT,PCS, said that a 4 month program led to significant improvements in scores on social responsiveness and physical endurance.
Children with autism are at increased risk for developing diabetes, obesity and metabolic syndrome. This is partially due to impairments in their balance, endurance and motor execution. It would seem that exercise is a simple solution. But students with autism often experience anxiety in group settings and constructing a program for this population can be tricky.
This program was embedded into their regular gym class and it consisted of twice weekly 20 minute classes involving walking and running. Data was collected including the Gilliam Autism Rating Scale, The Social Responsiveness Scale along with their body mass index, blood pressure and heart rate.
What are the downsides? Well, the study was missing some data from some of the schools and no one is really clear why exercise would improve communication in the first place. What is clear is that regular exercise is achievable in children with autism and it may have benefits on both their physical health and their communication skills. More studies are likely to follow.