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The Impact of a Rock Climbing Program for Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Pilot Study

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Abstract

It is often a challenge for adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), as it is for many individuals with disabilities, to participate in activities such as physical education class or community sports with typically developing peers. As such, activities that do not require high skill levels and team environments have been recommended for individuals with ASD. Rock climbing allows individuals of all abilities and skill levels to participate. The purpose of this pilot study was to: (a) explore the impact of a community-based rock climbing intervention on adolescents with ASD, and (b) examine the social validity of rock climbing as a community-based activity for adolescents with ASD. Ten adolescents participated in a 4-week rock climbing program (1x/week). During each session, the following were recorded: (a) a task analysis, (b) resting and working heart rates, and (c) pre/post cancellation test to assess attention. Parents participated in a focus group and completed a social validity scale (IRP-15) following the last session. Demographic and IRP-15 data were analyzed using descriptive statistics, exercise intensity was established for each participant using American College of Sports Medicine guidelines, and pre/post-test cancellation test scores were compared using a Wilcoxon Signed Ranks Test. The focus group session was transcribed and then reviewed to identify themes among responses. Results indicated that 6/10 participants were working at moderate aerobic capacity. No statistically significant differences were observed in attention test scores, although 6/10 participants improved. All of the parents strongly agreed/agreed that rock climbing was a good activity to address participation.

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Test of motor impairment: Manual
  • D H Stott
  • F Moyes
  • S E Henderson