The relationship between physical activity and verbal behavior of children with autism spectrum disorder
The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between physical activity and verbal behavior of preschool children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) during applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy sessions. This study has two research questions: The first is, to what extent does physical activity influence the rate of manding of children with ASD during ABA therapy sessions? The second question is, to what extent does physical activity influence the variety of mands of children with ASD during ABA therapy sessions? The study took place at a university-based verbal behavior laboratory. Four preschool children with ASD received ABA therapy at the verbal behavior laboratory were recruited to participate in the study. The research questions were addressed using a single subject multi-element design (Barlow and Hayes, 1979) consisting of two separate treatment conditions. The first treatment condition consisted of discrete trial training and similar activities that promoted relatively sedentary behaviors. The children received most of their therapy at either a table or small area of the verbal behavior laboratory. The second treatment condition consisted of natural environment training that promoted more physical activity and encouraged children to explore the verbal behavior laboratory. Data on the rate of mands and the variety of mands were collected and analyzed. Three of the four participants had slightly higher rates of manding and manded for a greater variety of items or activities in the active treatment condition. The three children that displayed the higher levels of verbal behavior in the active condition displayed corresponding lower levels of verbal behavior as assessed by the VB-MAPP and VOA. Based on the findings of the study it is recommended that ABA providers employ activities that promote physical activity during ABA therapy for preschool children with ASD especially to those that have low levels of verbal behavior as assessed by the VB-MAPP and VOA.