Date of Graduation

Spring 2018

Document Type

Honors Research Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

Major

Exercise Science - PrePhysical Therapy

Research Sponsor

Dr. Laura Richardson

First Reader

Mrs. Melissa Smith

Second Reader

Mrs. Stephanie Davis-Dieringer

Abstract

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2010), have recently reported an increase in the number of children diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Occupational therapists who work with children diagnosed with an ASD focus on building skills in all areas of life such as daily living skills, education, play, and social communication, and in various environments such as school, home, and community (American Occupational Therapy Association [AOTA], 2009). Currently, occupational therapists working with children who have been diagnosed with an ASD are expanding the use of aquatic therapy (Vonder Hulls, Walker, & Powell, 2006) as a treatment approach within the Occupational Therapy Practice Framework (AOTA, 2008).

The purpose of this study was to explore hydrotherapy, and other similar forms of aquatic therapy with autism. Qualitative data observations were collected at a Northeast Ohio recreational and aquatic therapy center for individuals with special needs. Observational field notes and hands-on experience provided robust data collection on the beneficial aspects of aquatic and adapted therapy sessions. Therapy observations included: facilitating language development and self-esteem as well as adaptive behavior, balance, agility, lower and upper extremity strength, and cardiovascular fitness. Observations were analyzed for major trends among observations. The results yielded noticeable benefits such as a reduction in the stereotypic autistic movements such as spinning and rocking, an increase in eye contact and social interaction, and the ability to verbalize what one wanted.

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