Functional Health Outcomes of An Outdoor Sports Camp for Children with An Autism Spectrum Disorder

Friday, May 18, 2012
Sheraton Hall (Sheraton Centre Toronto)
10:00 AM
H. B. Carroll, J. A. Agnew, Z. Pan and R. L. Gabriels, Children's Hospital Colorado / The University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center, Aurora, CO
Background: Published studies support the observation that individuals with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are limited in their involvement in extracurricular activities compared to typically developing peers due to factors including social communication difficulties. Studies also suggest that children with an ASD engage in less physical activity than their typical counterparts. This is despite the fact that physical activity has positive effects for individuals with an ASD, including improving physical health, increasing social responsiveness and increasing self-regulation.

Objectives: The aim of this pilot study was to evaluate the effects of a one-week sports camp specifically targeted for children and adolescents diagnosed with an ASD on measures of 1) Self-regulation, 2) Leisure activities and 3) Social responsiveness.

Methods: During an initial phone interview, potential subjects were screened. Participants who met study inclusion criteria (6-17 years of age; diagnosed with an ASD (Autism, Asperger’s or PDD) prior to study admission from a psychologist or psychiatrist in the community; meeting diagnostic cut-off scores for ASD on the Social Communication Questionnaire (≥ 15); returning home and to normal routine directly within two weeks after completion of camp; enrolled in a one week (only) camp session; and not having a medical or psychiatric disorder or behavioral issue that would prevent participation) were then engaged in the informed consent/assent process. Prior to start of camp, a designated caregiver for each participant completed the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales – II, the Child and Caregiver Information Form- Research Version (CCIF-RV) and the Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ) as demographic measures. Pre-post camp measures of participants’ self-regulation and social behaviors included the Aberrant Behavior Checklist Community (ABC-C), Irritability, Hyperactivity, Lethargy and Stereotypy subscales, and the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS). The pre-post measure of participants’ leisure activities was the Children’s Assessment of Participation and Enjoyment (CAPE). All measures were completed by a designated caregiver for each participant within one month before they participated in the seven-day camp and again four weeks following completion of the camp.

Results: Ten individuals participated in this research study (8 male / 2 female; ages 6-17 years). It is anticipated that at the time of this presentation, results will be reported on the pre- and post-intervention evaluations in the areas of self-regulation, social responsiveness and level of participation in leisure activities.

Conclusions: Determining if outdoor sports camps are helpful to children and adolescents with an ASD has multiple implications for the quality of life in this population including whether sports camps settings are effective in producing beneficial social and health outcomes for ASD individuals and whether or not parents/guardians should enroll their children in such activities. Additionally, future directions may include examination of whether longer term interventions (multi-week camps) are needed to produce significant social and health benefits for children and adolescents with an ASD.

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