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The effects of a 16-week school-based exercise program on anxiety in children with autism spectrum disorder

Carey, M., Sheehan, D., Healy, S., Knott, F. and Kinsella, S. (2022) The effects of a 16-week school-based exercise program on anxiety in children with autism spectrum disorder. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19 (9). e5471. ISSN 1660-4601

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To link to this item DOI: 10.3390/ijerph19095471


Physical activity interventions have been shown to decrease anxiety in children with ASD. There is little known regarding the effects of an exercise program on anxiety in both home and school settings and the optimal dosage to reduce anxiety. Therefore, the aim of this study was to assess the effects of a 16-week exercise program on the anxiety levels of children with moderate to severe symptoms of ASD in home and school settings, and to compare the effects at 8 and 16 weeks. This study was a within-subject, non-controlled design, intervention study. Twenty-four children (5−18 years) with moderate to severe ASD were included. A school-based exercise program was implemented three days a week for 16 weeks. Parents and teachers completed the Anxiety Scale for Children for ASD (ASC-ASD) at baseline, week 8, and week 16. A one-way repeated-measure ANOVA with post hoc analysis using Bonferroni adjustment was used to test for a significant effect for time (p 0.05), with Cohen’s d used to calculate the effect size. For teacher-reported anxiety, there were significant decreases from baseline to week 16 for total ASC-ASD (p 0.001), performance anxiety (p 0.001), anxious arousal (p 0.001), and uncertainty (p 0.001). There was no significant decrease in parent-reported anxiety. The findings demonstrate that a 16-week exercise program can reduce anxiety in children with ASD in school settings. Results demonstrate that 16 weeks, as opposed to 8, may be necessary to have a significant effect on in-school anxiety.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Department of Psychology
ID Code:104966
Uncontrolled Keywords:autism, physical activity, anxiety, home, school, exercise


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