Having an autism spectrum disorder is an independent risk factor for a suicide attempt according to a recent study, (Mu-Hong Chen, Tai-Long Pan, Wen-Hsuan Lan, Ju-Wei Hsu, Kai-Lin Huang, Tung-Ping Su, Cheng-Ta Li, et al., "Risk of Suicide Attempts Among Adolescents and Young Adults With Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Nationwide Longitudinal Follow-Up Study," Journal of Clinical Psychiatry (August 2017): epub ahead of print, doi:10.4088/JCP.16m11100). The study followed 5,618 adolescents ages 12 and up and young adults up to age 29. The risk for a suicide attempt for individuals with autism was 3.9% vs. 0.7 percent with follow up periods between two and ten years.
Risk factors for suicide include anxiety and depression. A literature analysis of 16 articles including 922 participants shows an improvement in anxiety symptoms not only in healthy individuals, but also individuals with physical or mental illness, Brett R. Gordon, Cillian P. McDowell, Mark Lyons, and Matthew P. Herring, "The Effects of Resistance Exercise Training on Anxiety: A Meta-Analysis and Meta-Regression Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials," Sports Medicine (August 2017): epub ahead of print, doi:10.1007/s40279-017-0769-0). Furthermore, another study following 33,908 adults showed that exercising at least one hour per week could have prevented 12% future cases of depression, assuming the relationship is causal, (Samuel B. Harvey, Simon Overland, Stephani L. Hatch, Simon Wessely, Arnstein Mykletun, and Matthew Hotopf, "Exercise and the Prevention of Depression: Results of the HUNT Cohort Study," American Journal of Psychiatry, (October 2017): epub ahead of print, doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2017.16111223).
Despite the mental health, cognitive and physical benefits of exercise, students often do not have physical therapy on their Individualized Education Programs, schools do not provide recess, and adults with developmental disabilities at day programs and residences are not exercising. We need applied behavior analysis programs to give individuals with developmental disabilities motivation to engage in physical activity. However, most programs for autism and other developmental disabilities lack adequate applied behavior analysis programs, even though it would have such a public health benefit.