Autism Spectrum Disorder

Individuals with ASD often lack motor coordination and several performance-related measures and have low levels of physical activity. Therefore, functional fitness training can be a fun and effective tool that helps them improve their fitness levels and assists them in activities of daily livening. According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM, 2017), functional fitness training is a type of neuromotor exercise program that integrates motor skills such as balance, coordination, gait, agility, and proprioceptive training. Testing individuals under ASD that have been subjects to such type of exercise training interventions, which is actually aiming to increase their quality of life, is very important since in this way scientists are able to examine whether the employed training regime has indeed beneficial effects on those individual’s abilities and/or to adjust it accordingly where necessary. In that way practitioners can actually accurately examine whether the applied training regime is actually functional and also can decide whether they can move to the next step or maintain the specific processes for a longer period of time. Testing apart from the control of the training intervention has also health related outcomes, since some parameters such as cardiovascular fitness levels and body composition related parameters.

Please note that to effectively introduce functional fitness activities to individuals with ASD, practitioners must consider the ability of them to complete the activities. The aim as mentioned before is examine the level and afterwards the development of those individual’s capabilities. Keep in mind that not all procedures are suitable for all individuals. In addition, where needed additional modifications must be done. Lastly it should be highlighted that the aim of testing should basically be the self-comparison on improvement. This is more appropriate than comparing the individuals that participate in the same intervention program.  Only if practitioners believe that, according to the individuals and their progress, it could use feedback compared to others as motivation then tools such this should be applied.

Cardiovascular Fitness Testing in Individuals Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder:

Three test can be used to evaluate cardiovascular fitness with accurate results and safety (according to the ACSM; These three fitness assessments that were utilized are:

  1. the Pacer Test,
  2. the Cooper 12 Minute Run Test,
  3. the Rockport One Mile Walk Test.
    Also another test can be used:
  4. 20-meter multistage shuttle run

Agility testing:

It is a tool to evaluate neuromuscular performance, biomechanics and power

  1. T-Test
  2. Ajax Shuttle Run
  3. Illinois Agility Test

Body Mass Index

A reliable way to determine whether a person has risk of being overweight and/or obese. I t is a very good gauge of their level of body fat

Body Fat %

Body fat percentage is a value that tells you how much of your body weight is made up of fat.  In terms of your overall health, since high or extremely high levels of it have been linked to several health related issues such as diabetes, stroke, cardiovascular related problems, etc.

Jumping Ability (vertical)

Jumping tests are great full-body exercises that measure legs strength and involve the core, increase body awareness and also are indicators in their progression of neuromuscular control.

Standing long jump

Specifically, this type of assessment has been previously used in individuals with intellectual disabilities. Its purpose is to monitor the individual’s lower‐extremity explosive power and strength.

Flexibility Assessment: Sit and Reach Test

The Sit and Reach Test was used to assess the hamstring and lumbar extensibility (Australian College of Sport and Fitness, 2013) and has been previously used in individuals with intellectual disabilities.

Mobility (employment of the TUG test)

The Timed Up and Go test (TUG) is a simple test used to assess a person’s mobility and requires both static and dynamic balance. It is performed as follows: a person takes to rise from a chair, walk three meters, turn around, walk back to the chair, and sit down; the time needed is measured with a stop watch. The test. This procedure has been suggested to be reliable for individuals with intellectual disability

Sit‐up test

The aim of the sit up test is to measure the number of sit ups with a specific pattern in 30’’. Every sit‐up starts with the back on the floor. This assessment is used to examine the development of the individual’s abdominal muscular strength and endurance.

Medicine Ball throws

The specific activity, that uses medicine balls of various weight based on the ability of each individual and also as a measure of training adaptation and progression, requires the ability to control the amount of force generated, involves neuromuscular control of the whole body, and can target at various distances and heights from the individual.

Upper-body muscular strength Handgrip strength assessment.

Handgrip strength is a valid and reliable measure of upper-body muscular strength in typically developing children ages of 6–12 years.

Soccer Specific Tests: A variety of actions including Dribbling in slalom, Dribbling in Change of Direction, Passing between obstacles, Combinations of those with the implementation of visual and auditory information

This testing procedures are aiming to examine the progression of these individuals in performing soccer related drills that implement all several aspects of fitness such a speed, endurance, aerobic and anaerobic capabilities, neuromuscular coordination and control, balance, agility, and also involves interaction with the environment and multitasking. The progression in each of the chosen procedures is recorder and the progress of the individuals is evaluated and accordingly intervention and/or corrective measures are taken. Please note that some individuals with ASD should start firstly by learning new, simple motor skills via either a procedural or an implicit manner. Therefore, it should be again mentioned that also the form of this soccer specific skill evaluation is adjusted to the needs of each individual.

Dr Nikolaos E Koundourakis, MSc, PhD
Soccer for Autism Team