The findings by researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, US suggest the use of exergames — video games that are also a form of exercise — has the potential to serve as a valuable addition to therapies for children with autism spectrum disorders who have motor and executive function impairments.
“We think that the exertion of participating in this type of active-play video game helps to improve the neural connections in the brains of these children,” said Claudia Hilton, associate professor.
Executive function is the higher level of intelligence that helps us to plan and organise. It is used to redirect higher thinking when changing plans and suppressing inappropriate behaviours. It is important for being able to live independently as adults.
The researcher investigated the use of the Makoto arena, a triangular shaped arena with pillars at each point, each with lights and sounds at various levels of the pillars for improving fitness of kids diagnosed with autism.
The study used 17 school-aged children and adolescents with ASD in two-minute sessions in the Makoto arena.
Children with ASD often experience executive function and motor impairments. They also experience lower rates of physical activity than children without ASD.
Through the use of Makoto arena, the researchers showed improvement in response speed, executive function and motor skills among children with ASD.
The findings appeared in the International Journal for Sports and Exercise Medicine.