Behavior Analysis in Practice

, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 358–369 | Cite as

The Use of a Multicomponent Behavioral Intervention to Promote Physical Activity in Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders across Inclusive Community Settings

  • Laura BassetteEmail author
  • Jessica Kulwicki
  • Shannon Titus Dieringer
  • Kimberly A. Zoder-Martell
  • Ryan Heneisen
Research Article


Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are generally less physically active than individuals without disability due to factors such as lack of motor coordination and inadequate transportation resources that can result in various barriers to participation. This affects their independence and may interfere with expectations (e.g., employment) during adulthood. It is essential to explore ways to teach physical activity so people with ASD can generalize skills in community settings. This study examined the effect of a multicomponent behavioral intervention that included (a) the Exercise Buddy application, (b) a system of least prompts, (c) an incremental increase of criteria, and (d) reinforcement to teach three adolescents with ASD functional movement exercises (e.g., squat). All participants increased their mastery of performing these exercises compared to baseline and generalized these skills across two community settings.


Young adults with autism spectrum disorder Physical activity Technology Inclusive community fitness 



This study was funded by Ball State University’s Aspire Start-Up grant.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


  1. Bellini, S., & Akullian, J. (2007). A meta-analysis of video modeling and video self-modeling interventions for children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders. Exceptional Children, 73, 264–287. Scholar
  2. Bodde, A., & Seo, D. (2009). A review of social and environmental barriers to physical activity for adults with intellectual disabilities. Disability and Health Journal, 2, 57–66. Scholar
  3. Criado, K.K., Sharp, W.G., McCracken, C.E., De Vinck-Baroody, O., Dong, L., Aman, M.G., et al. (2017). Overweight and obese status in children with autism spectrum disorder and disruptive behavior. Autism, 22(4), 1–10.
  4. Fittipaldi-Wert, J., & Mowling, C. M. (2009). Using visual supports for students with autism in physical education. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, 80, 39–43. Scholar
  5. Kennedy, C. H. (2005). Single-case designs for educational research. Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon.Google Scholar
  6. King, A. M., Thomeczek, M., Voreis, G., & Scott, V. (2014). iPad® use in children and young adults with autism spectrum disorder: An observational study. Child Language Teaching and Therapy, 30, 159–173. Scholar
  7. LaLonde, K. B., MacNeill, B. R., Eversole, L. W., Ragotzy, S. P., & Poling, A. (2014). Increasing physical activity in young adults with autism spectrum disorders. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 8, 1679–1684. Scholar
  8. Lang, R., Koegel, L. K., Ashbaugh, K., Regester, A., Ence, W., & Smith, W. (2010). Physical exercise and individuals with autism spectrum disorders: A systematic review. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 4, 565–576. Scholar
  9. McCoy, S. M., Jakicic, J. M., & Gibbs, B. B. (2016). Comparison of obesity, physical activity, and sedentary behaviors between adolescents with autism spectrum disorders and without. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 46, 2317–2326. Scholar
  10. Menear, K. S., & Neumeier, W. H. (2015). Promoting physical activity for students with autism spectrum disorder: Barriers, benefits, and strategies for success. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, 86, 43–48. Scholar
  11. Pan, C., Tsai, C., Chu, C., & Hsieh, K. (2011). Physical activity and self-determined motivation of adolescents with and without autism spectrum disorders in inclusive physical education. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 5, 733–741. Scholar
  12. Platos, M., & Wojaczek, K. (2017). Broadening the scope of peer-mediated intervention for individuals with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 48, 747–750. Scholar
  13. Roid, G. H. (2003). Stanford–Binet intelligence scales. Itasca: Riverside Publishing.Google Scholar
  14. Rosenberg, N. E., Schwartz, I. S., & Davis, C. A. (2010). Evaluating the utility of commercial videotapes for teaching hand washing to children with autism. Education and Treatment of Children, 33, 443–455. Scholar
  15. Sarol, H., & Çimen, Z. (2015). The effects of adapted recreational physical activity on the life quality of individuals with autism. Anthropologist, 21, 522–527.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Shogren, K. A., Wehmeyer, M. L., Palmer, S. B., Rifenbark, G. G., & Little, T. D. (2015). Relationships between self-determination and postschool outcomes for youth with disabilities. Journal of Special Education, 48, 256–267. Scholar
  17. Sorensen, C., & Zarrett, N. (2014). Benefits of physical activity for adolescents with autism spectrum disorders: A comprehensive review. Review Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 1, 344–353. Scholar
  18. Srinivasan, S. M., Pescatello, L. S., & Bhat, A. N. (2014). Current perspectives on physical activity and exercise recommendations for children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders. Physical Therapy, 94, 1–16. Scholar
  19. Stodden, D. F., Goodway, J. D., Langendorfer, S. J., Roberton, M., A., Rudisill, M. E., Garcia, C., & Garcia, J. E. (2008). A developmental perspective on the role of motor skill competence in physical activity: An emergent relationship. Quest, 60, 290–306.Google Scholar
  20. Todd, T., & Reid, G. (2006). Increasing physical activity in individuals with autism. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 21, 167–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Todd, T., Reid, G., & Butler-Kisber, L. (2010). Cycling for students with ASD: Self-regulation promotes sustained physical activity. Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly, 27, 226–241.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Walker, B. (2015). Growing up on the spectrum: How high-functioning young adults with autism transition to independence (Unpublished honors thesis). University of Puget Sound, Tacoma.Google Scholar
  23. Wechsler, D. (2014). Wechsler adult intelligence scale (4th ed.). San Antonio: Psychological Corporation.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Association for Behavior Analysis International 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ball State UniversityMuncieUSA
  2. 2.Northeast Indiana Special Education CooperativeDowlingUSA
  3. 3.Technology Enhanced Learning and Living (TELL)AustinUSA

Personalised recommendations