Physical and Psychosocial Impact of a University-Based, Volunteer Student-Led Running Program for Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder

Annie Marggraff, John N. Constantino

Research output: Contribution to journalLetter

Abstract

Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are frequently excluded from group sports.1 This accentuates the social isolation inherent in their condition, perpetuates cycles of perceived incompetence in physical activity, and increases susceptibility to weight gain influenced by psychotropic medications.2 In a 2015 study of 376 children with ASD, 18.1% of children were overweight and 17% were obese.3 Scarcity of opportunity to participate on athletic teams can contribute to this liability and compound the social isolation inherent in the condition.4-6 Thus, programs that combine relationship building with physical conditioning present a double opportunity to offset significant hurdles for children with ASD. To address these needs locally, a group of volunteer college student-athletes (led by co-author Annie Marggraff) established a weekly Sunday afternoon program for athletic opportunity for children with ASD in the community. The program, Bear Cubs Running Team, was piloted over 5 successive semesters at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri to empower children with ASD to set achievable physical conditioning goals, provide a forum to support their families, and increase college students’ awareness of barriers against and opportunities to meaningful improvements in health and quality of life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)974-977
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Volume57
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2018

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