The Benefits of Physical Activity for Individuals with Autism
The primary purpose of intervention for individuals with autism (children and adults) is to teach skills that result in improved communication, increased social skills and reduction in stereotypic and other problem behavior. Studies have shown that physical activity can lead to:
These outcomes are extremely valuable for individuals with autism, their families and communities. Selecting activities (e.g., running, swimming, cycling) based on competence, and the shared interests among individuals with autism, their educators and caregivers, are key ingredients in promoting independence and community integration. Focusing on skills that are useful across physical activities includes such targets as:
Tips for promoting physical activities:
If the goal is to build a lifelong leisure activity or to increase physical fitness it should be fun and not too demanding! A good model of skill building, effective supports, developing community partnerships and selecting activities based on shared interests can be read in Silent Running (Schneider, 2015). This is a true story of triumph, passion and perseverance and an excellent example of how a family’s quality of life improved significantly because of physical activity; specifically running!
Written by Randy Horowitz, M.S., Ed., SAS, Associate Executive Director of Program Development, NSSA
Published March 2019