Step 1. Assessing Activity Level
- It is important to assess the activity level of children and adolescents with autism. Quantitative measures for physical activity can include heart rate monitoring, pedometry, electronic screen devices, accelerometry, and inclinometry. Qualitative measures of physical activity include logbooks, survey questionnaires, and diaries. This baseline will allow us to evaluate the efficacy of physical activity.
- Analyzing typical problem behaviors before the introduction of exercise will also allow us to have a reference to evaluate post intervention.
Step 2. Warming Up
The sessions often begin with a warm-up activity. Warm- up activities can include jumping rope, doing jumping jacks, etc. to ready the learner’s body and nervous system for the workout.
Step 3. Exercising
The major portion of the session can include indoor or outdoor aerobic activities, resistance training, and/or stretching, or aquatic exercises done at a swimming pool. Aerobic training includes cycling, treadmill, exergaming (exercising while playing a video game), and aquatic exercises. Resistance training programs target upper limb and lower limb muscles by using machines, free weights, and body weight. Most studies implement exercise training two to three times per week with durations varying from 20 minutes to an hour.
Step 4. Cooling Down
Following the exercise session, it is ideal to complete a cool-down activity to smoothly transition from exercise back to a steady state of rest. Some examples of cool-down activities are stretching and meditating.
Step 5. Post-Intervention Assessment
Post intervention assessments of physical activity and challenging behaviors are used to evaluate the efficacy of the exercise program. These assessments can be done daily or weekly and may be completed through self-reporting or by parents or teachers/instructors.