Exercise, scheduled throughout the day, can play a role in helping to prevent challenging behaviours in some students. It is considered an antecedent based intervention as it can help to prevent some behaviours from occurring in some students. It has been used to help to prevent some stereotypic behaviour, off task behaviour, aggression and self-injury in a small number of studies. Scheduled exercise can be planned throughout the day in short bursts (1–20 minutes in duration) and students can be involved in choosing activities.
Exercise is an evidence based practice. The evidence accumulated for exercise suggests that it can help to address issues related to behaviours of concern, school-readiness, academic, and motor skills, in combination with other appropriate strategies. Research has focused on using exercise to support the behaviours of students with autism spectrum disorder, and the research on the impact of exercise on behaviours of concern is mostly limited to single case studies. Some studies have found that the inclusion of frequent, short bursts of exercise (up to 8 times per day) reduced the level of aggressive behaviour in students with moderate to severe developmental disabilities.
Using the strategy
Escape/avoid social situation with adult
Escape/avoid social situation with child
Escape/avoid stimulation or sensation
May be appropriate to trial. Scheduled exercise sessions that incorporate areas of sensory preference that provide students with deep pressure or movement may help a student feel calm.
Escape/avoid item or activity
Some research has suggested that exercise may support on-task behaviour. Scheduled exercise could be trialled to support this area.
Obtain/get stimulation or sensation
Limited evidence for this type of behaviour.
Obtain/get item or activity
Obtain/get social situation with adult
Obtain/get social situation with child
Scheduled exercise has some evidence base with the following age groups:
- Lang, R., Koegel, L. K., Ashbaugh, K., Regester, A., Ence, W., & Smith, W. (2010).
Physical exercise and individuals with autism spectrum disorders: A systematic review.
Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders,