Therapeutic Physical Activity for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

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Contribution to Book

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Publication Title

Therapeutic Physical Activities for People with Disability




Research since the late 1990's suggested that diagnosis rates of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) increased to about 60 in 10,000 (Wing & Potter, 2002). With further evaluation, revised criteria, and advanced diagnostics, the prevalence of ASD is now approximately 1 in 68 children (Baio, 2012). Individuals with ASD suffer from a wide range of deficits in motor skills, communication, socialization, obesity, and overall wellbeing. Research compiled from the last 10 years indicates that physical activity can lead to improvements in these areas, specifically aerobic capacity, improved gross motor function, and improved muscular strength and functional skills among others (Johnson, 2009). Social benefits may also improve, including increased motivation from peers and high levels of participant/parent satisfaction. The purpose of this chapter is to provide a brief overview of ASD, outline the requisite deficits found in the literature, describe interventions that have utilized physical activity to improve such deficits, as well as provide recommendations for practitioners and researchers with a vested interest in using physical activity as a method of improving overall well-being of individuals with ASD.