Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

 

Relations between Physical Fitness and School-Day Physical Activity Behavior in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder Public Deposited

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  • Background. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is characterized by impairments in social-communicative deficits and restricted and repetitive behaviors, interests, or activities (APA, 2013). While current estimates suggest 1 in 68 children are diagnosed with ASD, more alarming statistics indicate 1 in 50 school-aged children live with the disorder (Blumberg, Bramlett, Kogan, Schieve, & Jones, 2013). Recent empirical research indicates the amount of physical activity children between 9-17 years of age with ASD spend in physical activity is lower than typically developing peers (Tyler, MacDonald, & Menear, 2014) and sadly declines as children become older (MacDonald et al., 2011; Memari et al., 2013; Pan & Frey, 2006). While research indicates the importance of health-related physical fitness in relation to the physical activity behavior of children without disabilities (Chen, Welk, & Jones, 2014; Welk et al., 1999) research has yet to confirm this in children with ASD. In an effort to improve levels of physical activity behavior in children with ASD research would benefit from examining the relationship between health- related physical fitness and the amount of physical activity children with ASD spend in school-day physical activity. Whereas the majority of physical activity research reflects daily average levels of physical activity, this study is unique in that it investigated the children’s physical activity in the context of the school-day. This was in support to the need for school-based physical activity provisions specific to children with ASD (Pan et al., 2015). Purpose. Therefore, the purpose of this investigation was to examine relations between muscular strength and aerobic capacity and the amount of physical activity a sample of children, between 9-17 years of age diagnosed with ASD, accumulated in school. It was hypothesized that both aerobic capacity and muscular strength would have a significant positive association with the amount of school-day physical activity children with ASD accrued. Methods. Children with ASD between the 9-17 years of age (N = 48, M = 40, F = 8) participated in this cross-sectional descriptive study. Data analysis consisted of a multiple regression, which was used to understand the relationship between the amount of school-day physical activity accumulated (i.e., steps per minute accumulated over 4 days of wear time) and components of health-related physical fitness including aerobic capacity (i.e., distance in meters walked in 6 minutes), and muscular strength (i.e., upper body isometric strength measured through grip strength) and in children between 9-17 years of age diagnosed with ASD. Results. Results indicated that the combination of age, gender, aerobic capacity and muscular strength explained 4.83 % of school-day physical activity, R = 13.68. Although a Pearson correlation demonstrated a non-significant relationship between aerobic capacity and school-day physical activity, the multiple regression analysis revealed a significant relationship between aerobic capacity and time spent in school-day physical activity (B = 0.00, p = 0.02). Other variables (i.e. age, gender and muscular strength) in the model did not demonstrate a significant relationship to school-day physical activity. Conclusion. The health-related physical fitness components of aerobic capacity were found to be significantly associated with the amount of physical activity accumulated by children with ASD during school. While more research is needed in the examination of relations between school-day physical activity and health-related physical fitness in school-age children (i.e. 9-17 years of age) with ASD, this study provides an initial step forward in the identification of key physical activity determinants relevant to children diagnosed with ASD.
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