The effects of antecedent physical activity on the academic engagement of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Date of Completion

January 2008


Education, Educational Psychology




Increased rates of autism have resulted in an expanding need for empirically validated, feasible, school-based academic interventions. Jogging is one possible intervention which has been utilized successfully to decrease self-stimulatory behaviors in children with autism; however, there is a dearth of studies that have examined the effect of physical activity on academic engagement. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of participation in antecedent physical activity on the academic engagement of elementary school children diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Academic engagement was the target behavior given substantial evidence demonstrating that it affords more opportunities to respond which may subsequently enhance rates of learning (DiPerna, Volpe, & Elliot, 2002). Four elementary school children diagnosed with an ASD participated in a 12 minute jogging routine and were subsequently observed for a period of 15 minutes during classroom academic activities. Following a multiple baseline design, students were observed for a period of 2 weeks of baseline data collection. One student than began the exercise intervention, while the others remained at baseline. One student was added to the exercise intervention each week after baseline data collection until all 4 students were participating in the jogging sessions. Data collection continued until the fourth student had been observed for 2 weeks. Finally, follow-up data were collected 4 weeks post-intervention for a period of 2 weeks. Results revealed large effect sizes for academic engaged time for each student indicating that, when compared to baseline, the students spent more time engaged in academic activities consequent to their participation in the jogging intervention. Such results suggest that physical activity in the form of jogging may be efficacious in promoting academic achievement for students diagnosed with an ASD. ^