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Feasibility of a Swimming Intervention to Improve Sleep Behaviors of Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder

Lisa Mische Lawson, Lauren Little

Abstract


Children with ASD experience high rates of sleep disturbance, but there are limited interventions addressing sleep in this population. We investigated the feasibility and acceptability of a specialized swim program, Sensory Enhanced Aquatics, for children with ASD. Additionally, we examined the extent to which the physical activity intervention impacted children’s sleep behavior as well as specific child characteristics in those most responsive to intervention. We used a pre-post intervention design to test the effects of an 8-week swim intervention on sleep of ten children aged 5-12 years. Caregivers completed measures of sleep disturbance, autism severity, and sensory processing. Findings showed that children differentially responded to the swim intervention based on autism severity and sensory processing. Children with increased sensory sensitivity and decreased autism severity showed decreased sleep disturbance following the intervention. Results showed that the intervention was feasible and highly acceptable. Sensory Enhanced Aquatics differentially improved the sleep behaviors of children with ASD based on specific child characteristics. This is relevant to recreational therapist who may need to match intervention to child characteristics for best response.

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Keywords


Autism spectrum disorder; sensory processing; swimming; physical activity; recreational therapy

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.18666/TRJ-2017-V51-I2-7899

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