Objectives: 1-To assess whether the intervention achieves relaxation as measured by a reduction of greater that 15% for heart rate (HR) and a 30% increase in Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia (RSA). 2-To assess the duration of the effects of the relaxation program on autonomic functioning as measured by HR and amplitude of RSA. 3-To asses the effects of the intervention on behavioral expression, defined by frequency of three individualized target behaviors per student collected for 15 seconds every minute for three hours post intervention.
Methods: In a repeated A-B-A-B design 15 students with ASD are being studied on 5 relaxation program (RP) days, verses 5 other days consisting of typical classroom activities (TCA) as a control condition. Heart rate monitoring takes place for the duration of the school day on RP and TCA days, and behavioral observations by blind raters for three hours following the procedure is collected. An activity monitor will be used to correct for changes in heart rate due to physical movement.
Results: We have successfully collected data on the first 5 subjects. Preliminary measures have indicated a significant reduction in heart rate from baseline to treatment, t(2) =-4.72, p < .05, compared with a control period of similar duration. This suggests that the program is effective in reducing cardiovascular arousal during the intervention. Reporting on the results of the ongoing effects is deferred pending the completion of the study.
Conclusions: We have developed a cost effective, easy-to-implement intervention that has a beneficial effect on autonomic regulation and putatively for behavior in classroom settings. This intervention does not require extensive staff training, carries no risk of side effects and would be easy to introduce to other school programs if proved to be beneficial.
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