Lorraine Becerra is an Assistant Professor at the University of Missouri College of Education. Photo credit: University of Missouri College of Education

While physical activity is important for everyone, research has shown that people with developmental disabilities do not exercise as often as their normally developed peers. To address this inequality, a researcher at the University of Missouri recently created fitness picture books that will help teenagers with autism exercise more often and provide low-income families with an easy resource for motivating exercise when outdoor fitness equipment may not are accessible.

“There is so much research out there aimed at helping people with autism improve their academic performance, social skills, and communication skills, but we also need to remember the importance of physical activity to a healthy lifestyle,” said Lorraine Becerra, an assistant professor at the MU College of Education. “There are numerous health benefits of exercise, such as getting blood pumping into your body, better sleep, and a lower risk of obesity. If we can keep children with autism more physical, they are more likely to run around and play with their peers so there are other aspects of their lives that we can improve. “

Becerra is also a behavioral analyst at the Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders. Because some of her former clients with autism had body mass indexes that had risen to unhealthy levels due to excessive lack of exercise, her carers asked Becerra to come up with creative ways to encourage her children to exercise more.

In a recent research study, Becerra created fitness picture books that included step-by-step pictures of various exercises, such as: B. Jumping jacks, bear crawls and lunges. The picture books have been used successfully to increase the amount of time people with autism spend in physical activity.

Having previously worked in low-income school districts with limited financial resources, Becerra recognizes the need to find cost-effective ways to help children with autism exercise more often.

“It’s important to remember that some schools may not have a jungle gym or lots of age-appropriate resources for children to play with,” Becerra said. “The great thing about the picture books is that they have simple, engaging exercises that can be done in a variety of settings, such as a school playground, in the garden, or even in an empty field in a park. This is one too quick and easy option Supervisors or teachers ensure an organized structure in flexible free time, for example during the break. “

With the recent advances in technology and entertainment, teens are increasingly spending time sitting in front of TVs, iPads, and personal electronic devices. Becerra is passionate about reminding teenagers – especially those on the autism spectrum – the importance of planning time for physical activity.

“These lifelong habits start when you are young,” Becerra said. “If you take the time to walk around and establish these exercise routines early in life, teens can maintain these habits through their teenage and adult years.”

According to study results, adolescents with autism experience a sharp decline in physical activity between the ages of 9 and 13

More information:
Lorraine A. Becerra et al., The Effect of Photographic Activity Plans on Moderate to Vigorous Physical Activity in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis (2020). DOI: 10.1002 / jaba.796 Provided by the University of Missouri

Quote: Picture Books May Promote Physical Activity Among Adolescents With Autism (2021, Feb.26). Retrieved February 26, 2021 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-02-picture-boost-physical-youth-autism.html

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