Masters Thesis

Parent-mediated Physical Activity for Children with Autism

Physical activity (PA) may be a strategy to improve the quality of life of individuals with autism; however, few studies have examined interventions to promote PA in this population. This study explored the feasibility of a parent-led physical activity intervention, and investigated the intervention’s effect on PA levels, motor proficiency, and observed behavior and symptomatology. Participants included four children with a primary diagnosis of ASD, and their parent. Assessments of PA, motor proficiency, and observed behavior and symptomatology were obtained both at baseline and after completing the 12 week curriculum. Parents completed detailed checklists and a semi-structured interview to provide feasibility information. Results showed an increase in PA for participants who adhered to the intervention (n = 2). Participants (n = 3) showed no changes in motor proficiency or most behavior and symptomatology measures but improvements in repetitive behavior (n = 2). There were mixed ratings of acceptability of the curriculum across all participants, but the two participants who completed the intervention rated most of the activities at a difficulty level as “somewhat difficult” and rated enjoyment level as “liked it”. Those two families also reported positive observed changes in their child such as throwing ability, attending, and confidence. the perceived changes and acceptability for the families that adhered suggest this type of intervention may show promise for the future PA promotion among the youth with ASD.

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