In the UK approximately 1% of the population has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Specifically, it is estimated there are around 150,000 children and their families living with ASD. A primary concern of families of children with ASD is communication difficulties, and learning new words is often less complete for children with ASD than for their typically developing peers. Coupled with this, children with ASD often suffer with sleep regulation problems, which could be a contributing factor to difficulties within word learning and communication.
A new exercise intervention is being developed called “The Salford Autism Exercise Project”. The aim of the project is to assess the role exercise plays with aiding sleep in children with ASD and, in turn, facilitating the learning of new words. The project will assess whether a six-week exercise intervention can improve sleep in children with ASD. Children in the project will also be tested on new word learning at three points throughout the intervention to evaluate the benefits in word learning from the exercise intervention and/or improved sleep. The results of the intervention will be paired with the results of another group without the intervention (although they will receive the 6-weeks exercise programme after the testing is complete, so nobody will miss out!).
If the intervention is successful, we would see increased sleep time/quality for the children, and/or improved word learning skills. With over 150,000 children on the Autism spectrum in the UK, this intervention has the potential to impact a huge number of children and their families. In improving sleep, children may be able to communicate better in the world around them.
Throughout the Salford Autism Exercise Project, the team at the University of Salford will be working with neighbourhood support groups and local charities for children with ASD, having a positive impact for children with ASD, and their families, throughout the local area. The project not only plans to run the six-week exercise intervention but hopes to be a source of information and connectivity between families and groups supporting children with Autism Spectrum Disorder by running impact events within the community. We welcome you to contact us on AutismExerciseProject@salford.ac.uk for more information about this exciting project.
Funder: The Waterloo Foundation
Team: Dr Amy Bidgood and David Tate