Picture books can boost physical activity for youth with autism

MU researcher develops an easy and cost-effective way to promote physical activity among children with developmental disorders.

April 16, 2021


Brian Consiglio: For many children with autism, engaging in physical activity can be difficult. The unstructured environment of recess can make it hard for children with developmental disabilities to efficiently fill their time, meaning they might miss out on crucial physical and social activity.

Now, MU Professor Lorraine Becerra has developed step-by-step picture books of simple exercises to help kids with autism engage in more activity and promote their physical development.

Becerra: “This is a really nice, flexible, easy way that we can provide structure during these unstructured periods, both for the student and for the educator. With just a sequence of pictures we were able to engage the student and double their amount of physical activity, and really promote their belonging in this environment.”

Consiglio: Physical activity has a wide range of benefits. In addition to pumping blood throughout the body, it can also improve energy, attention, sleep quality, and mental clarity. For children, physical activity can promote social engagement as well.

Becerra: “If we have a kiddo who doesn’t engage, either can’t physically or doesn’t want to, or doesn’t know how, so if they’re not engaging in those physical activities then it might limit their access to the social interaction with all the other kids who are playing in their playground. It just gives them more skills and more relatable opportunities to play with their peers.”

Consiglio: Becerra’s simple solution can promote healthy habits for kids with autism at a young age. And since her solution is also very affordable, schools with limited financial resources can still have the means to promote physical activity for their students.

For more on this research, visit showme.missouri.edu

I’m Brian Consiglio with a Spotlight on Mizzou.

Learn more about the research here

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