Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is an increasingly diagnosed neurodevelopmental disorder with as many as one in 68 US children diagnosed every year.
Research has previously shown that early diagnosis and treatment of ASD can work to lessen the impacts on both the suffers and their families, however a new study from Tel Aviv University has investigated a novel type of treatment: outdoor play and adventure.
The study examined 51 children from seven special-education kindergartens, all aged three to seven, with 30 of these selected to participate in an outdoor adventure program (OAP).
Cognitive and adaptive skills were assessed by the children’s kindergarten instructors before and after the program was undertaken, with significant improvements found for the group exposed to outdoor adventure.
“Outdoor adventure programs are designed to improve intrapersonal skills and interpersonal relationships by using adventurous activities to provide individual and group problem-solving and challenge tasks,” said lead author Professor Ditza Antebi-Zachor. “The necessary tools for a successful OAP include establishing individual and group goals, building trust among participants, and providing activities that challenge and evoke stress but are nevertheless enjoyable.
“Our study shows that outdoor adventure activities benefit children with autism and improve their social communication skills. We suggest including these fun activities in special education kindergartens and in communication classrooms at school in addition to traditional treatments. Parents of children with ASD can also enroll their kids in afterschool activities based on the principles of our research.”
The study was published in Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology.