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Bellarmine University Physical Therapy Dept. Explores Benefits of Aquatic-Based Physical Therapy for Children with Autism

Feb 10, 2009


LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Research from the Bellarmine University Physical Therapy Department finds that autistic children may benefit from aquatic-based physical therapy. In a brief trial, therapists found that the sessions resulted in qualitative changes in behavior, language and function, including improved eye contact and increased vocalizations.

Elizabeth Ennis, a physical therapy professor at Bellarmine, will discuss the findings in a poster presentation at the American Physical Therapy Association Combined Sections Meeting in Las Vegas, Thursday, Feb. 12, at 2 p.m. EST.

In the eight-week study, a group of three children ages 3-4 and a group of four children ages 5-7 took part in 45-minute therapy sessions one day a week. Exercises focused on core stability, respiration, posturing, position and social interaction. Parents were required to participate, and the group emphasized parent teaching to encourage carryover during non-therapy pool sessions.

Early intervention is critical and children with autism spectrum diagnoses benefit from multiple types of intervention. Additional research is needed to identify the long term effects and benefits of using the aquatic environment for this population, but the researchers noted that an aquatic-based program could be helpful in programs with a multi-disciplinary focus.

Other Bellarmine presentations at this week's association meeting are as follows:

-Elizabeth Ennis: Early Recognition of Childhood Development Delays and Development of a Community Resource Guide for Families of Children with Special Needs

-Patricia Gillette: Implications of a Managed Care Physical Activity Benefit for Senior Adults

-Gina Pariser: The Effects of Exercise Instruction in a Community-Based Diabetes Self-Management Class on Participants: Knowledge and Physical Activity

-David Pariser: A Service-Learning Approach in Physical Therapy Education for Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Response

-Elaine Lonneman: The Systematic Development of an Evidence-Based Ergonomic Training Module: A Community Partner Project

Bellarmine University is an independent Catholic university offering more than 50 majors, as well as graduate degree programs and a doctor of physical therapy. Forbes magazine and the Princeton Review rank Bellarmine among America’s best colleges, and U.S. News and World Report consistently ranks Bellarmine as a top tier university.

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