EVERHART, B., DIMON, C., STONE, D., DESMOND, D., & CASILIO, M. (2012). The influence of daily structured physical activity on academic progress of elementary students with intellectual disabilities. Education, 133(2), 298. View PDF.
Summary: Alex X. Martínez
There is conclusive evidence indicating that school physical activity (PA) has a positive impact on health-related areas and academic achievement of PK-12 students (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDCP). Other studies suggest that PA also benefits individuals with developmental disabilities. However the research in the aforementioned population is scarce. It is recommended that school-aged children participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous daily physical activity (MPVA). Researchers suggest that exercise increases the development of brain cells and production of neurons. These mechanisms could be responsible for the relationship between PA and academic performance. The purpose of this study was to determine the trends of structured physical activity prior to learning activities for elementary school children with intellectual disabilities.
Students with intellectual disabilities from two life skills (special education) classes participated in this study (seven primary students and six intermediate elementary grade students). The students engaged in a daily PA lesson in addition to physical education (PE) offered twice within a six-day cycle. After five minutes of rest from PA, all participants completed academic work tasks related to mathematics and language arts. Structured PA was added after a five-day baseline of the academic tasks. The intervention combined with academic tasks occurred for 16 days after the baseline period. After the 16-day intervention period, the academics tasks were completed without structured PA. An academic school district assessment was used to determine students’ progress on reading and math tasks. Teachers kept anecdotal records to keep track of any significant events.
Graphic data trends showed academic improvement over time for the intermediate group. Although not consistent, some academic progress was observed in some participants at the primary grades. Teachers reported that some students exerted more effort during academic tasks and improved their focus.
The authors suggest that academic progress was inconsistent at the primary levels because of the difficulty of the students to reproduce motor skills and patterns. The structured PA may have reproduced different outcomes when compared to students with motor skill ability and evident motor control skills. The findings of this study support recent literature regarding kinesthetic movement, brain activity, and academic performance. Future research should focus on the relationship between motor skills development level and academic performance after structured PA in students with developmental disabilities.