How Physical Activity Benefits students with Autism or Other Exceptionalities
It is generally widely accepted that there is a positive correlation between physical activity and academic performance. However, it has become more evident that it's more important than ever for students with autism or other exceptionalities to exercise! Research has shown these students have less developed gross motor skills, therefore they must work harder than those without autism or other exceptionalities to accomplish similar results. (Take a look at the research here.)
Gross motor skills defined: these are the motor skills involved in movement and coordination of the arms, legs, and other large body parts and movements. They allow us to do activities like running, crawling, swimming, and more. It has been shown that performing these types of activities improves academic performance, attention and memory.
Here are some interesting statistics which further prove that exercise improves academic performance:
- Schools that have added physical activity into their curriculum showed a 6% increase in student’s standardized test scores
- Students who participated in 90 minutes/week of moderate to vigorous physical activity during an after school program displayed improvements in working memory
- Physically active lessons including physical activity breaks have been shown to reduce time-off-task by nearly 21% and improve reading, math, spelling and composite scores
- One study revealed that preadolescent children who completed 20 minutes of treadmill training at a moderate pace responded to test questions on reading, spelling, and arithmetic with greater accuracy and had improved reading comprehension compared to children who had been sitting
Our PE partner, Team Up has collaborated with an Occupational Therapist to create engaging and customized a physical education program to fit the needs of our students. We're now working to further enhance our students' sensory needs during their PE class time.
How? By further breaking down proprioceptive and vestibular sensory activities for each students current ability level and needs. (the vestibular system is the sensory system that provides the leading contribution to the sense of balance and spatial orientation for the purpose of coordinating movement with balance.) This means that repetition with these activities and exercises will help promote gross motor learning, in turn creating a stronger ability for fine motor learning.