Deficits in social behavior and communication skills are correlated with reduced gross motor skills in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The ExerciseBuddy application (EB app) was designed to communicate these motor skills to those with ASD and integrates evidence-based practices such as visual support and video modeling supported by The National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders. The purpose of this study was to determine the effectiveness of the EB app in facilitating increased physiologic responses to physical activity via a continuous measurement of energy expenditure and heart rate versus practice-style teaching methods in children with ASD. Six children, ages 5 to 10 years, diagnosed with ASD were recruited. Each participant performed a variety of locomotor or object control skills as defined by the Test of Gross Motor Development-2 once per week for 4 weeks. Motor skills were communicated and demonstrated using either practice-style teaching methods or the instructional section of the EB app. Energy expenditure and heart rate were measured continuously during each 12-minute session. A Wilcoxon signed-rank test was performed to assess any differences between the use of the app and practice-style teaching methods. The use of the EB app elicited greater values for peak energy expenditure (p = 0.043) and peak heart rate response (p = 0.028) while performing locomotor skills but no differences were observed while performing object control skills. Similarities were observed with average physiologic responses between the use of the EB app and practice-style teaching methods. The use of the EB app may allow for a greater peak physiologic response during more dynamic movements and a similar average cardiovascular and metabolic response when compared to practice-style teaching methods in children with ASD.

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Journal: Physiology & behavior. 2017 Aug 1;177:242-6.

Keywords: ASD, autism, children, energy expenditure, exercise, Heart Rate, Physical Activity, video modelling,

Applications: Physical Activity,

CamNtech Reference: AH17055

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