Feasibility study of perceived exertion and heart rate of children with ASD during swimming


  • Lisa Mische Lawson, PhD, CTRS
  • Caitlin Lisk, MSW




autism spectrum disorder, swimming, aquatics, heart rate, perceived exertion, physical activity


This study explored the feasibility of manual heart rate and the Pictorial Children’s Effort Rating Table (PCERT) to measure moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Sixteen children with ASD participated in weekly, 30-minute Sensory Enhanced Aquatics swimming lessons. Swim instructors measured heart rate, and swimmers rated their physical activity levels using the PCERT. Results showed swimmers’ heart rate and perceived exertion significantly increased from the beginning to the end of lessons. However, both measures were difficult to implement, indicating they may not be feasible for this population. Future research should investigate alternative objective measures to quantify MVPA with the ASD population with use of devices such as the Garmin Swim, Fit Bit, or Actigraph.

Author Biographies

Lisa Mische Lawson, PhD, CTRS

Occupational Therapy Education, University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, Kansas

Caitlin Lisk, MSW

Occupational Therapy Education, University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, Kansas


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How to Cite

Mische Lawson, PhD, CTRS, L., & Lisk, MSW, C. (2019). Feasibility study of perceived exertion and heart rate of children with ASD during swimming. American Journal of Recreation Therapy, 18(2), 29–37. https://doi.org/10.5055/ajrt.2019.0187




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