As the incidence rate of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) increases, so does the interest in the health and well-being of individuals on the spectrum. Similar to their typically developing peers, children and youth with ASD face increased rates of obesity and decreased engagement in physical activities. Reviews of physical activity patterns indicate that older adolescents with ASD are less physically active than their younger peers with ASD. Profiles of motor skills and physical fitness in children and youth with ASD have also documented delayed performance levels.
A research study published in the peer-reviewed journal, Autism Research and Treatmentfound that children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are less physically fit and active than their typically developing peers. The purpose of the study was to examine the physical activity and fitness of school-aged children with ASD in comparison to typically developing peers. Participants with ASD completed diagnostic and developmental assessments and a series of physical fitness assessments. The results indicated that children with ASD were less physically fit, in the strength domain, and less physically active than their peers without disabilities. Even though the children with ASD were less active, the researchers found that they were similarly capable in nearly all of the fitness tests. “That’s really exciting, because it means those underlying fitness abilities are there,” said Megan MacDonald of Oregon State University who coauthored the study.
The results of the study provide further evidence that children with an ASD face health differences, and that efforts to promote physical activity in school and through public health initiatives need to include children and youth with ASD. The findings also present important evidence for parents and teachers that children on the autism spectrum are capable, but may need more opportunities to be active. This has implications for intervention and program planning. For example, adapted physical activity programs are one avenue with intervention potential to battle the lower levels of physical activity and fitness found in children with ASD. Parents, teachers, and administrators are encouraged to include students with an ASD in physical fitness and physical activity assessments and provide them with individualized information about related behaviors that can impact their health into adulthood. Lastly, additional research is needed to understand why individuals with autism spend more time in sedentary activities.
Kiley Tyler, Megan MacDonald, and Kristi Menear, “Physical Activity and Physical Fitness of School-Aged Children and Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders,” Autism Research and Treatment, Volume 2014, Article ID 312163, 6 pages.http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2014/312163