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ABOUT PHYSICAL THERAPY
ABOUT PHYSICAL THERAPY
I’d like to talk about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), describe what it is, and talk about the benefits of Physical Therapy. The technical definition of ASD looks something like this:
“Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is classified, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), as a disorder which is characterized by persistent deficits in social communication and interaction, as well as several types of restricted or repetitive behaviors. Under this spectrum, the disorder ranges in severity which is determined through a variety of behaviors observed in the individual. These behaviors include: deficits in social-emotional reciprocity, deficits in non-verbal communicative behaviors and deficits in maintaining and understanding relationships, as well as stereotyped or repetitive motor movements, insistence on sameness, highly restricted fixated interest that are abnormal in intensity or focus, and hyper or hypo reactivity to sensory input. Due to all these symptoms, the development of social interaction and communication skills are greatly impacted.”
This is a whole lot to take in, so let me break this down. ASD is a very real and very serious disorder, which is seen as a range, or spectrum, of specific “symptoms”. Since this is a spectrum, there can be a whole lot of areas, or severities that someone diagnosed can fit. It also means that there are not any single- symptom types that fit one person or another, it means that there are many things to look out for. Things such as difficulty communicating, both listening and talking, as well as difficulty keeping or starting relationships or friendships. There are also some physical behaviors that can show, like repeating specific movements over and over (like rocking back and forth repetitively or self-aggression such as biting their own arm or hitting themselves) or moving objects in one very specific way day-to-day, it also means that if this pattern is broken, distress will follow.
Exercise as a Treatment for ASD
Studies have shown that individuals with ASD can benefit from regular exercise, to put it in a technical sense, these benefits include:
“Observed increased focus as well as an observed increase in ability to stay on task and increased academic focus with notable observed decreases in self-injury and aggression. Similar studies have shown the intensity and duration of exercise as a determining the level of notable improvements (higher intensity exercise or longer duration exercise programs would result in highest observed benefits). Decreases in sleep disturbances were observed in individuals with ASD after participating in exercise programs.”
Ok, so this is also a big bite to eat, so if we break this down, it basically says that exercise can help focus, both at home and in school settings. It also says that the movements we discussed before, like self-harm, will be less frequent, possibly stopping entirely. The higher improvements in these behaviors were seen with higher intensity exercise programs, which does not mean that lower intensity programs can’t show benefits, they just showed different results.
Where does Physical Therapy fit in? Well, to start, the first word of this is “Physical” which implies movement of the body through controlled and calculated exercises. Similar studies have shown that exercise can be a preventative measure for controlling certain behavior patterns seen in those with uncontrolled lack of focus and aggressive behaviors.
All in all, it’s just a great idea to get out and exercise, if there are any concerns for those with ASD during exercise, bring them in for Physical Therapy. Skilled and highly trained Physical Therapists can provide safe and controlled exercises that will help provide all of these benefits and more.
- Chris McMillen MAIS
4/7/2021 05:29:11 pm
11/30/2021 06:07:27 pm
I didn't know that exercise can treat ASD. I'll see if my brother can get help from a professional. He has ASD and maybe exercise can help him out.
2/10/2022 08:31:49 pm
I liked it when you said that the duration and intensity of exercise can help improve autism spectrum disorder. My son has ASD and my husband and I do not know what to do. We are hoping to find a therapeutic school on Friday that can help him and teach him key life skills for success.
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