Individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are often preoccupied with television, computers, and video games (screen-based media). This represents a big challenge for parents and carers of children with ASD and is a significant worry for their long term health and wellbeing. Engagement with electronic screen media and technology after school is the most common reason expressed by children with ASD themselves for not engaging in physical activity.
Kids Are Kids! ActiveAte program addresses this issue by encouraging children with ASD to participate in physical activity by making it an enjoyable experience. Amy Hadwiger’s son, Cohen participated in the ActiveAte program in 2019. After the program, Amy told us “ we have been able to make a big reduction in screen time. Cohen is staying after school on the oval playing with his friends now and going to the park most days. He is more interested in being outdoors and more confident to engage in physical activity”. An added benefit of reducing screen time and replacing it with physical activity is that it promotes social interaction for children with ASD.
According to Amy, Cohen has now been much more willing to participate in physical activities, “He is more willing to engage in school sport. He is making more friends through sport and is less isolated”. In addition, she told us this has also been beneficial to the family dynamics at home “We now make more time to be together as a family and do things like go to the park together”.
ActiveAte also addresses issues around eating and nutrition that are a significant challenge for so many children with ASD due to their sensory processing difficulties. This can be a very complex problem to address, but the program did have some effect on Cohen, with Amy telling us “ It has made me a little more at ease but mealtimes are still something we are working on”.
This group will continue to run in 2020 and 2021, with the goal of directing future interventions towards facilitating a healthy lifestyle for children with ASD. The ActiveAte Program is made possible by the Helen Leech Endowment through Perpetual’s IMPACT Philanthropy Program.
Image: Cohen Hadwiger, past participant of ActiveAte Program
Download the PDF below for more details about the 2020 Program