How Can Exercise Help in Pediatric ABA Therapy?

We all know that there are countless benefits to daily exercise routines. When you think of treatment for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy might be the first method that comes to mind, but there are also other methods that can be used to supplement ABA therapy, including exercise. Keep in mind exercise doesn’t replace the primary ABA therapy for children with ASD, but certain exercises can help children to build important skills that might also be targeted in ABA.

Exercise and motor skills
Children with ASD are often delayed in their development of fine and gross motor skills. Practicing exercises during ABA therapy sessions can help children on the autism spectrum to build these skills, such as eye contact, which are crucial in social interactions. Eye contact might be improved through playing basic games such as catch.

Motor skills and social interactions
Throughout early childhood, many children participate in organized sports, but this is not always the case for children on the spectrum, due to their lack of motor planning. If children do not participate in gym class activities, recess, or organized sports, they are missing out on this social component. There are also certain social skills learned through group activities that children on the spectrum might miss out on if there are not participating.

Exercise and Proprioception
In addition to challenges with motor skills, children with ASD may also experience challenges with proprioception, which is having a sense of where your body is in space. This sense also involves muscles, joints, and tendons in the body. If a child struggles with proprioception, they are often clumsy or prone to falling, so ABA therapy often works to improve proprioception. By practicing exercises in ABA therapy that force a child to practice their posture and stability (e.g. karaoke walks), they will improve these skills.

Benefits of exercise for ASD
Exercise can also be helpful in ABA therapy for children with ASD, because exercise can help to reduce anxiety levels, which is a common feature of autism spectrum disorder. During exercise, endorphins are produced which also help to reduce pain in the body. There are many other benefits of exercise that can positively affect children with autism.


Are you interested in learning more about exercise and ABA therapy?
Are you interested in ABA services for your child in the Chicago area? Contact us or call (773) 630-4400 to learn more about the range of services we provide for children who are on the autism spectrum at Chicago ABA Therapy, including applied behavior analysis therapy, occupational therapy, and speech-language pathology.