Saturday 31 October 2015

Making physical activity more attractive to teens with autism

I don't want to keep you too long today, what with it being All Hallows' Eve and all the formalities that accompany this festival. I would however like to pass the paper by Heidi Stanish and colleagues [1] your way and some details on the hows and whys of "physical activity enjoyment, perceived barriers, beliefs, and self-efficacy" when it comes to teens diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Based on questionnaire responses from 35 adolescents with ASD and 60 not-ASD controls (I'm not a great fan of the words 'typically developing'), researchers reported a few potentially important group differences in terms of enjoyment of things like physical education (84% vs. 98% respectively) and preferences to engage in physical activity in their spare time (25% vs. 58%). These and other group disparities are framed within the idea that "differences identified may inform program development" when it comes to getting teens with autism more involved in physical pursuits.

As per other occasions on this blog (see here and see here), I'm particularly interested in the various research looking at physical activity and autism; specifically the ways and means sedentary behaviours can be 'modified' when it comes to parts of the autism spectrum (see here). We're all being told these days that everyone needs to perhaps move a little more to improve physical wellbeing (see here) and those on the autism spectrum are no exception to this advice.

Some of the hurdles identified by Stanish et al focused on enjoyment of sport and exercise and the idea that "physical activities were too hard to learn" are factors that I would suggest, can be fairly easily overcome with the right advice and resources. As per the findings reported by Todd and colleagues [2] based on the use of cycling for example, certain "self-regulation interventions" can help to get children and young adults on the road to physical activity participation. Small steps and finding the right physical activity are perhaps other key tenets to improving participation and exposing those who are perhaps a little exercise-adverse to the wide, wide range of possible activities.

Have I also mentioned that I'm a bit of fan of the potential benefits of the martial arts for those on the spectrum?

Music: Safety Dance by Men Without Hats. Spooky stuff...


[1] Stanish H. et al. Enjoyment, Barriers, and Beliefs About Physical Activity in Adolescents With and Without Autism Spectrum Disorder. Adapt Phys Activ Q. 2015 Oct;32(4):302-17.

[2] Todd T. et al. Cycling for students with ASD: self-regulation promotes sustained physical activity. Adapt Phys Activ Q. 2010 Jul;27(3):226-41.

---------- Stanish H, Curtin C, Must A, Phillips S, Maslin M, & Bandini L (2015). Enjoyment, Barriers, and Beliefs About Physical Activity in Adolescents With and Without Autism Spectrum Disorder. Adapted physical activity quarterly : APAQ, 32 (4), 302-17 PMID: 26485735

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