Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disability that is characterized by emotional, social, and behavioral challenges (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2020). One common characteristic of Autism Spectrum Disorder is impairment in executive function (EF) (Craig, Margari, Legrottaglie, Palumbi, Giambattista, & Margari, 2016). EF describes the governing of cognitive processes through control and regulation and is often associated with activity in the prefrontal cortex (Craig et al., 2016). One intervention that is being considered as an Evidence Based Practice (EBP) to help with characteristics of ASD, like executive dysfunction, is exercise (Dillion, Adams, Goudy, Bittner, & McNamara, 2017). Some studies have even looked at the synergistic effects of exercise and virtual gaming on cognition in youth diagnosed with ASD (Anderson-Hanley, Tureck, & Schneiderman, 2011). Anderson-Hanley et. al (2011) found that use of an interactive physical physical and cognitive exercise system (iPACES) had a positive effect on improving some of the symptoms of ASD such as enhancing executive function and decreasing repetitive behaviors.
In this study, we aimed to analyze the effectiveness of iPACES on a single youth with ASD over a three-month intervention. Problems due to the COVID-19 pandemic shifted our aim to look at the effects of multiple 20 min bouts of exergaming in a single case study. One youth was enrolled and successfully completed a series of experimental procedures, including the exercise induced feeling inventory (EIFI), the paper Stroop Task pre-intervention and an electronic Stroop Task pre- and post-intervention. This youth also attempted newly developed versions of the iPACES game and provided feedback. The canal version of the game seemed to be a more interesting version according to the youth’s report. Interestingly, the participant found that the bout using the canal version of game required more physical effort and felt more revitalizing according to the EIFI. Comparison of the Stroop A to Stroop C change scores for electronic Stroop Task as part of the iPACES v3 application and for the paper Stroop task revealed that the assessments were comparable. A review of the graphical display of the time series data for the electronic Stroop indicated that there was no increase in performance on this executive function task after exercise with iPACES. Because the electronic Stroop used was a new version that is still in development, it may not have been sufficiently challenging to the participant’s cognitive ability (few errors were registered), lacking sensitive to any effects on executive functioning. Therefore, further development of the electronic Stroop may be required. Further research should also be conducted to see the effectiveness of exergaming over a longer period of time as there may be greater effects.