Objectives: This study compared the participation patterns of children with Asperger syndrome aged between ten and fifteen years to those of typically developing children using a computer-based use-of-time recall.
Methods: Children with Asperger syndrome (n=30) and typically developing children (n=42) aged between ten and fifteen years were administered the Multimedia Activity Recall for Children and Adolescents – Participation Edition (MARCA-PE) on two occasions, approximately one week apart. The MARCA-PE is an interviewer-administered, computer-based, twenty-four hour use-of-time recall which allows children to recall all activities they were involved in on the previous day in time slices as fine as five minutes and choosing from over 250 different activities. For each activity recalled, the child is also asked to report how much they enjoyed the activity and how difficult they found it. Data were collected for at least one school and one non-school day for each participant. One way analysis of variance (ANOVA) and Mann-Whitney U tests adjusted for age and sex were used to explore differences in participation patterns between children with Asperger syndrome and typically developing children.
Results: Analyses revealed differences between the participation patterns of children with Asperger syndrome and typically developing children, with two main areas of difference. First, the physical activity level (PAL) of children with Asperger syndrome was 5% lower (p=0.01) than that of typically developing children with 14 minutes less of sport involvement per day (p=0.04). Second, children with Asperger syndrome were shown to be involved in fewer activities (4 activities less per day, p<0.00) than typically developing children. There was a trend towards greater use of videogames (31 minutes more per day, p = 0.12). No differences were found between the two populations on overall reported levels of enjoyment and difficulty experienced.
Conclusions: This study demonstrates that children with Asperger syndrome are involved in fewer activities than their peers but overall they report experiencing the same levels of enjoyment and difficulty with their participation. Lower levels of physical activity (PA), combined with higher use of video games were reported by children with Asperger syndrome which may impact on their physical health in the long term. Literature focusing on typically developing children describes a linear relationship between the amount of PA completed and the child’s health status (Warburton et al. 2006). In particular, a lack of PA has been linked to obesity (Trost 2005). It is therefore important that children with Asperger syndrome be supported and encouraged to be active.