The Influence of Vigorous Exercise on Behavior Problems, Academic Engagement, and Sleep among Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder
The “PE study” initiative was designed to measure the effectiveness of the Boston Higashi School exercise program. Our school prides itself on this program, which meets recommendations proposed by the Center for Disease Control for establishing and maintaining strong physical health. There is a significant need for programs like ours, because individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders are at increased risk for physical health issues, such as Type- II Diabetes, Obesity, and heart conditions, because they engage in exercise less frequently than their typically developing peers. Many researchers attribute this to difficulties associated with their disorders, such as social communication deficits and restricted, repetitive behaviors.
However, evidence exists to suggest that exercise can reverse effects of the disorder by improving sleep, reducing anxiety and problematic behaviors, and increasing attention. Grounded in this belief, BHS launched the research study with Dr. Ashley Woodman, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and Dr. Miriam Evans, of CAST – Wakefield.
This study involved twenty-one students from the Junior High division at BHS and took place in July and August of 2016. We collected an enormous amount of data on exercise intensity, behavior, academic engagement, and sleep. We utilized gold-standard measures to collect our data, such as the Omron HJA-750C tri-axial accelerometer and the Autism Diagnostic Observation Scale-Version 2. Professional statisticians at The University of Massachusetts Amherst are currently analyzing data. The research team hopes to share the entirety of the results within the next year.