Barriers to Physical Activity in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders: Relationship to Physical Activity and Screen Time

J Phys Act Health. 2015 Apr;12(4):529-34. doi: 10.1123/jpah.2013-0271. Epub 2015 Apr 28.


Background: Individual, social, and community barriers to physical activity (PA) experienced by children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) make PA participation more difficult and may contribute to increased screen time.

Methods: We compared the prevalence of parent-reported barriers to PA among 58 typically developing (TD) children and 53 children with an ASD, 3 to 11 years, and assessed the association between barriers and PA participation and screen time among children with ASD.

Results: Parents of children with ASD reported significantly more barriers than parents of TD children. Based on parent-report, 60% of children with ASD required too much supervision compared with no TD children (P < .001). Parents of children with ASD were more likely to report that adults lack skills needed to include their child (58%), that their child has few friends (45%), and that other children exclude their child (23%). The number of parent-reported barriers to PA was inversely correlated with the hours spent in PA per year (r = -0.27, P = .05) and positively related to total screen time (r = .32, P < .03).

Conclusions: These findings underscore the need for community-based PA programs designed to meet the special requirements of this population and policies that compel schools and other government-supported organizations for inclusion and/or targeted programming.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / psychology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Child Behavior / psychology*
  • Child Development
  • Child, Preschool
  • Computers / statistics & numerical data
  • Exercise* / psychology
  • Female
  • Friends
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Activity*
  • Parents*
  • Prevalence
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Sedentary Behavior*
  • Television / statistics & numerical data