Skip to main content


Exercise (ECE) is a strategy that involves an increase in physical exertion as a means of reducing problem behaviors or increasing appropriate behavior while increasing physical fitness and motor skills.


With ECE, learners engage in a fixed period of programmed physical activity on a regular basis. ECE sessions often begin with warm-up exercises and end with cool-down activities and may include aerobic activities (e.g., jogging, jumping, swimming), strength training, and/or stretching that can take place indoors, outdoors, or at a swimming pool for aquatic exercise programs. ECE is often used in conjunction with prompting, reinforcement, and visual supports.

ECE meets evidence-based criteria with 3 group design and 3 single-case design studies. According to the evidence-based studies, this intervention has been effective for preschoolers (3–5 years) to middle school-age learners (12–14 years) with ASD. ECE can be used effectively to address behavior, school-readiness, academic, and motor skills.

Brief Adapted from

Cox, A. W. (2013). . Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina, Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, The National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Retrieved from:

Research Summary

Ages (yrs) Skills Settings Outcome
5-17 years Motor, behavior, social School, community, clinic
*The information found in the Research Summary table is updated yearly following a literature review of new research and age range in this table reflects information from this review.

Outcomes:     Evidence-based     Emerging     No evidence     Comprehensive

Steps for Implementation


Download PDF