UW-Madison Study Finds Balance Training May Reduce Severity Of Autism Symptoms
MADISON, Wisconsin (WMTV) – A new study from UW-Madison used video games to teach balance and reduce the severity of autistic symptoms in young adults.
According to the study published in the journal Brain Communications, researchers at the UW-Madison Waisman Center observed adolescents with autism learning yoga and tai chi onscreen via Nintendo Wii scales.
The teens were between 13 and 17 years old and were teens with and without autism.
They were encouraged to hold yoga and tai chi poses on a balance board for as long as they could. The sessions were held for one hour three times a week for six weeks.
At the end of the training, participants increased their ability to hold a pose. The researchers also noted an improvement in posture, an issue that young people with autism tend to struggle with.
For people with autism, balance control seems to peak in early adolescence – earlier than their non-autistic peers – which can lead to posture and balance issues.
Adolescents with autism who completed balance training also reported a significant decrease in the severity of autism symptoms in areas of social communication, repetitive behaviors, and restricted interests – or a strong interest in specific subjects or objects.
Their caregivers reported that their symptoms had changed from severe to moderate.
“So we think that’s at least proof of principle and that autism symptoms may change from motor training,” said Brittany Travers, the Waisman Center investigator. “It’s a really unique perspective because a lot of autism intervention doesn’t necessarily take motor characteristics into account.”
She also hopes to identify results of balance training that will be meaningful for adolescents with autism and further study how to use video games to both aid motor control and contribute to their quality of life.
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