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"Biking? Let's Make it Happen!": Cycling intervention to enhance motor skills, social interaction and inclusion of pupils with Autism and other special needs

  • FIEP Catalunya


This presentation draws from a specific sporting intervention carried out by Dinamiks and Inncredu professionals during 2017-2018 season at Paidea School, a Special Education School setting in Barcelona, Catalonia. The intervention was undertaken as a form of sporting activities related to cycling. The main objective of the intervention was to assess the factual implementation of BTTEA project principles in an out of school placement. The theoretical patterns were established following a comprehensive literature review and BTTEA basic guidelines in order to disseminate them among PE Teachers and training institutions. The BTTEA program is integrated in a more complex educational project called SPORTEA, which aims to raise awareness about the need of implementing active leisure initiative for pupils with special needs to fight high levels of sedentary behaviour. The project has introduced up to three sporting disciplines: cycling (current intervention), padel-tennis and basketball; and is incorporating more professionals in order to broaden its borders to new sports. The project has gained local community partnership and is currently collaborating with four regional councils. The study has been also carried out in order to reinforce the importance of improving Physical Education towards a Quality Physical Education patterns (Castillo, Solà & Sebastiani, 2015). In this process, attention to diversity and special needs are crucial in order to make Physical Education useful and meaningful for society.
13th FIEP European Congress
29th FIEP World Congress
Istanbul, Turkey 2018
Biking? Let’s Make it Happen!: Cycling intervention to enhance motor skills, social interaction
and inclusion of pupils with Autism and other special needs
A. Castillo Cañiz*
Inncredu (Educational Opportunities), Sant Cugat del Vallès, Catalonia, Spain
F. Dalmau Olivé
Dinamiks (Educació, lleure i esport), Sant Cugat del Vallès, Catalonia, Spain
FIEP Catalunya (Associació de la Federació Internacional d’Educació Física a Catalunya)
This presentation draws from a specific sporting intervention carried out by Dinamiks and
Inncredu professionals during 2017-2018 season at Paidea School, a Special Education School setting in
Barcelona, Catalonia. The intervention was undertaken as a form of sporting activities related to cycling.
The main objective of the intervention was to assess the factual implementation of BTTEA project principles
in an out of school placement. The theoretical patterns were established following a comprehensive
literature review and BTTEA basic guidelines in order to disseminate them among PE Teachers and training
institutions. The BTTEA program is integrated in a more complex educational project called SPORTEA,
which aims to raise awareness about the need of implementing active leisure initiative for pupils with
special needs to fight high levels of sedentary behaviour. The project has introduced up to three sporting
disciplines: cycling (current intervention), padel-tennis and basketball; and is incorporating more
professionals in order to broaden its borders to new sports. The project has gained local community
partnership and is currently collaborating with four regional councils. The study has been also carried out
in order to reinforce the importance of improving Physical Education towards a Quality Physical Education
patterns (Castillo, Solà & Sebastiani, 2015). In this process, attention to diversity and special needs are
crucial in order to make Physical Education useful and meaningful for society.
KEY WORDS: Quality Physical Education (QPE), Physical Activity (PA), Autism Spectrum Condition
(ASC), Special Needs, Sensory Modulation, Intensive Interaction, Conductive Approach, Positive
Behaviour Support, Peer Interaction, Social Interaction, Social Motivation.
For the realisation of this project relevant literature was researched and explored in order to
obtained theory basis and documentation to reinforce professional praxis. In order to focus the review, up
to 4 elements related to pupils with autism and special needs were looked at; the importance of PA, the
role of schools, sedentary behaviour and the learning environment. These factors were chosen due to their
close relationship with the topic.
The importance of P.A for pupils with ASC and exclusion from taking part in P.A
There is universal acceptance amongst specialist practitioners that physical activity is a key
component when working with young pupils on the autistic spectrum. Physical exercise helps in the
reduction of aggression in children with autism, increasing levels of participation, decreasing levels of
anxiety and hyperactivity, stereotypical behaviour modelling as well as raising levels of self-esteem
(Castillo & Soan, 2013). Principles concerning the inclusion of young disabled people in PE and PA
programmes does not necessarily apply for ASC specific groups as there are a wide range of social skills
and communication aspects that needs to be considered and revised in a daily basis and no major motor
skills challenges or impairments are manifested (Frith & Happé, 1994). There has also been noticed that
sport/PA to help adolescents with ASC develop social skills and share positive experiences with peers,
coaches, educators and local community members (Rosso, 2016).
There are many issues that youth population suffering from ASC have to face in order to take part
in Sport and PA. It has been documented that population with disabilities have difficulties from
participation in youth sports (Sorensen & Zarrett, 2014). Children with more significant disabilities such as
autism are excluded from participation in youth sports (Moran & Block, 2010). The most common issues
are related to the fear of having a child with disability taking part in regular sports activities, as well as lack
of training for those (coaches, PE teachers…) that are appointed to deal with sport participants with
disabilities (Moran & Block, 2010). According to Moran and Block (2010), there is also a widespread fear
from parents and children, ranging from not wanting to get hurt, hurting others by accident or in response
of a violent outburst, not engaging in games due prevalence of repetitive behaviour and being emotionally
hurt by peers, and therefore decreasing their already low self-esteem and “perceived competence”.
The role of the schools and other public subjects
Even when recreation programs are available, there is a social gap in relation to participating in
sports programs in adolescence. Thus, the offer tends to only meet those who are already participating in
competitive settings and this leads to a severe drop off in recreational programs. The population that is not
directly receiving the competitive offer may have other interests directly confronting the ones related with
PA and have less recreation programs set for them to enjoy (Moran & Block, 2010). Some schools are
afraid to generalise P.A and P.E, among their pupils, arguing that the number of social impairments may
lead to conflicts that can be easily solved by introducing a range of therapies within the school policies,
such as drama-therapy, music-therapy and occupational-therapy, instead. A greater deal of obstacles in
getting active through Physical Activity initiatives and complications in communicational patterns have
lead child with ASC to choose more sedentary activities, on top of the already described issues related to
peer social interaction and adults appropriate integration, as well as exclusion by peers, and/or the inability
of adults to include them appropriately (Must, Phillips, Curtin & Bandini, 2015).
Increasing sedentary behaviour
Teenagers with autism or other psychiatric disorders are far less likely to exercise or play sports
than are their typical peers, this is an important issue because these adolescents with autism may set
themselves up for mental and physical health problems and miss opportunities to make friends, a skill that
does not come naturally to many people with the condition, as well as facing health issues that can go on
an intensify during adulthood (Smith & Patterson, 2012). Although there is a need of increasing the number
of studies related to the sedentary behaviours for pupils with ASC, beyond the correlative data outcomes
from general population, in order to quantified specific benefits and tackle the origin of a number of those
behaviours, there is a list of studies that have already shown lack of participation of child with disabilities
(Memari et al., 2015). Some of them have already highlight the lack of physical activity from those suffering
with ASC, according to existing financial and sociodemographic concerns, which show the importance of
promoting transnational funded actions to minimize the impact of social background (Jones et al., 2017).
Learning environment
Apart from the noted socio-structured issues there a number of considerations coming from the
number of impairments that child with ASC show and can also restrict their sports and Physical Activity
successful participation, due to social and behavioural impairments (Must, Phillips, Curtin & Bandini,
2015). There is a list of elements that have to be taken into account when planning a lesson for pupils with
autism. In terms of PE and sport the following key issues may therefore inhibit autistic pupils to fully
accessing the learning environment (Stevenson, 2008).
Environment: Difficulties in defining space leading to unpredictable movement within space and
invading others personal space.
Communication: Interpretation of verbal messages and increased length of time to process
instructions. Lack of understanding of abstract concepts.
Gross motor difficulties: Imitation may be difficult when completing complex tasks.
Sensory issues: Noise, touch, smell, and light may affect the pupils’ ability to process information
and affect behaviour.
Social difficulties: Co-operation, turn taking, sharing, negotiation, understanding rules.
Speed of skill acquisition: Increased time required for the processing and retention of skills and
Difficulties with generalization: Different activities may require skill to be re-leant as skill transfer
and application may be limited.
Figure 1. Study participants, list of special needs and handicaps
General goals and hypotheses
The whole project was set to prove the importance of applying a conductive approach based on
sporting initiatives and group motivation, not only for reducing pupils’ sedentary life style while gaining
interest in sports education, but for improving their ability and their interest for social interaction.
The specific aims were as follow:
1) Assess the factual implementation of BTTEA project principles in an out of school placement.
2) Revise conductive model and positive behaviour support to enhance social interaction and
3) Raise awareness about the need of implementing active leisure initiative for pupils with special
4) Fight high levels of sedentary behaviour in pupils with special needs.
5) Help pupils to learn to ride a bike and improve their motor skills
The hypotheses under the view that, applying a sporting intervention based on “socioconductivity” tools
related to cycling will:
1) Improve pupil’s ability and interest for social interaction.
2) Improve pupils motor skills and interest for participating in sporting activities.
3) Reduce pupil’s sedentary behaviour and maximise social inclusion.
Setting and group of pupils
The study was carried out at Paidea School, a Special Education School setting in Barcelona,
Catalonia; with the help of out of school club managers, tutors of each of the pupils and family members
to the class groups during 2017-2018 season. There were up to 4 participants (3 boys and 1 girl) with two
different special needs diagnosis (ASC and Down Syndrome) and age range from 14 to 17 years old. The
pupils had a number of social and motor handicaps that modelled the intervention from the very beginning.
Mixed population, forced the need of finding a unique proposal to suit them all, but recognising specificities
throughout the project.
Figure 3. Biking motor skills achievement process intervention
Figure 2. Study participants and Francesc one of the teachers in charge of the study.
Dual focus intervention
The intervention was set in order to generate a duality of beneficial outcomes. On one hand, there
was an interest to teach student how to ride a bike to help reducing sedentary lifestyle and gaining motor
skills; on the other hand there was a need for working on social skills to improve social interaction. By
working in both areas’ pupils would eventually get a broader set of learnings to impact they daily life and
facilitate tools for future inclusion in society. The motor skill achievements were set around biking progress
following a classic learning pattern starting with body posture. After securing a stability base for starting
motion, the learning progress ran to balance, steering and pedalling. From there, the basis was set to
achieved more advanced skills such as starting pedalling (teacher was helping students before reaching this
point) and breaking.
The social skills intervention was planned as a progression model. Pupils work on three different
stages process. They started interacting only with the teacher in order to create a secure environment and
allowing professionals to learn more about pupil’s reaction and attention abilities. Observing relational
patterns helped teachers to recognise a preferred partner for each of the pupils in the group and initiating a
first level of social interaction by adding a new member. In the end of the process each preferred group of
Figure 4. Social skills planned intervention
Figure 5. “Socioconductivity” model based on conductive approach principles
pupils were merged together to a single group in order to work towards improving both intrapersonal and
interpersonal skills, increasing motivation and decreasing level of disrupting behaviours.
“Socioconductivity”, the key factor
A revised model for conductive approach and positive behaviour support was introduced to
enhance social interaction and inclusion of pupils with autism and other special needs. The new intervention
model was based on increasing peer interaction as a positive reinforcement for getting active while learning
to ride a bike. The overall purpose of this strategy is to rise social motivation among the group members
and reducing specific conductive approach techniques to achieve improvements. This intervention was
based on celebrating social encounters as motivators while reducing or avoiding the usage of materials (i.e.
games, pictures, food) as motivators. Due to the combination of conductive approach based on social
reinforcement the intervention strategy was called “Socioconductivity” (Castillo & Dalmau, 2018).
Following the premises, a multi-method teaching intervention to promote specific encounters among
participants (teachers and pupils), raising social interactive motivation and reinforcing the importance of
parents’ engagement was used throughout the process.
Intensive interaction technique as a facilitator approach
The approach helps the person with learning difficulties and their communication partner to relate
better to each other and enjoy each other's company more. It helps them develop their communication
abilities. In Intensive interaction the carer, support worker, speech and language therapist or teacher works
at being a better communication partner and so supports the person with learning disabilities developing
confidence and competence as a communicator. Intensive Interaction is a practical approach to interacting
with people with severe or profound and multiple learning disabilities and/or autism. It is a very practical
approach to communication and socialising with people who do not find it easy communicating or being
social. The sessions are organised logically and adapted to the children needs in order to help them focused
on what is going to happen and when is going to happen. “The sessions have a predictable rhythm, important
in meeting the needs of children on the autistic spectrum. The (occupational therapist) may use a Velcro
picture board with the session activities” (Glovak, 2007, p.2)
Related to PE and PA it is needed to pay special attention to the organization of the space and the
number of tools that are planned to be introduce during the lesson, in order not to disturb pupil’s attention
to the objective of the session itself. According to British Institute of Learning Disabilities (2004) the
session key tips are the following:
Key tips
enjoying being with another person
developing the ability to attend to that person
concentration and attention span
learning to do sequences of activity with the other person
taking turns in exchanges of behaviour
sharing personal space
using and understanding eye contacts
using and understanding facial expressions
using and understanding physical contacts
using and understanding non-verbal communication
The intervention was organised under three different phases (observation, interaction and assessing
outcomes) during the academic year. Each of the intervention phases highlighted a number of skills willing
to be achieved and a particular monthly focus target. Skills were organized following the dual focus
intervention scheme, progressing from exclusively related to the motor and skill spheres, to a combination
of both of them right at the end.
Figure 6. Observation phase overview
Figure 7. Interaction phase overview
Phase 1: Observation
Running from October to December, the first phase was set to assess motor skills background of
each pupil in order to set a list of reasonable targets. October was purely used to observe pupils’ genuine
abilities towards cycling. During November, teachers apply general conductive strategies following school
tutors and parents advise on pupils preferred motivators such as food, visual books and other materials. At
the end of the trimester there was the time for deploying the first motor skills assessment to check pupils
progression and a general induction on social interactions.
Phase 2: Interaction
The second step was particularly organised to check social interaction skills. The phase started in
January with a planned teachers interaction with pupils, following a previous analysis of best possible
options among them. February was mainly used for introducing pupil’s interaction under teacher’s
supervision, this helped to map the preferred options and started the progressive integration of whole group
in March. The whole trimester was video recorded in order to properly assess motor skills and socials skills
and introducing the second sociogram.
Phase 3: Outcomes
Outcomes phase was organised in three months, April, May and June. During this period a general
acquisition program for motor skills and socials skills was intensified in April and May to prepare
community participation and final assessment in June. At the end of the phase and the whole process parents
Figure 8. Outcomes phase overview
Figure 8. Assessing tools overview, with the range of techniques used.
and tutors’ views were incorporated to better analyse pupils progress in both dimensions (motor and social).
Teachers had at that point, a clear picture on pupils’ achievements and a third sociogram that showed social
interaction skills progress was deployed.
Result analysis focused in two main areas of pupils’ enhancement process: (1) students’
psychomotricity abilities and (2) social interaction abilities. The results showed benefits in both, motor
skills acquisition and social interaction impact as pupils systematically improved their sporting abilities
related to biking and progressively enhanced their interaction levels during lessons.
Assessing tools
In each of the phases, pupils progression in both motor skills and social skills area were checked
with a battery of assessing tools. There was a mixture of qualitative and quantitative techniques ranging
from diary sessions to interviews. On one hand, motor skills were assessed by the professionals in a daily
basis. However, once a trimester a number of specific bicycle technical aspects were ticked as part of a
checklist according to each of the pupils’ personal plans. Particular achievements were also recorded in
order to highlight pupils genuine breakthroughs and in order to have visual data to reinforce the results of
the study. On the other hand, apart from diaries and recorded evidence, interviews with parents and other
professionals were set to have a qualitative view on pupils’ evolution on the social skills side. All the
qualitative information given, helped in constructing a sociogram panel that showed all the participants
progression from the first phase to the third one.
Figure 9. Assessing tools overview, with the range of techniques used.
Pupils’ main achievements
As shown in the figure below, participants had several achievements in both motor skills and social
skills areas. Taking into account the fact that they never used a bike before the study, the general biking
progression was certainly positive across the board:
Pau D. managed to pedal continuously and accepted a different support rather than holding
the handlebar. On the social side, he managed to stop referring to mum during lessons and
enjoyed social interaction from the very beginning of the intervention. Most of the times he
acted as a trigger for whole group reunion for choral activities.
Arnau achieved pedalling for a considerable distance and starting the bike autonomously with
no other help than a little tap at the back. Although he struggled enjoying with the presence
of other pupils, he ended up the intervention accepting the presence of more students around
him; as well as reducing the need for adults’ continuous attention.
On the motor skills side, Míriam was one of the best examples of achievement. She managed
to ride in straight line on a flat surface, clean of any possible obstacle. Besides, she started
cycling with no help from teachers, not even a simple tap at the back to help her
acknowledging when to start. Socially wise, she had more difficulties as she wanted to
practice on her own and did not like to interact with other students. However, by the end of
the intervention she showed better self-confidence in approaching others and allowing
physical and visual contact.
Although Pau F. generally struggled in both areas, he showed good achievement. Technical
wise, he managed to ride about 50 meters and start the bike with a sensible holding help from
the back by one of the teachers. On the social sphere of the study, he presented himself as the
most challenging pupil of all. He was nonetheless, who showed a better progression as his
disrupting behaviour towards other pupils decreased significantly. This achievement helped
him in building up better relationship with the other pupils within the group.
Figure 10. Sociogram 1
Figure 11. Sociogram 2
Figure 12. Sociogram 3
Sociograms progression
A sociogram interaction pattern was used throughout the study, in order to be able to check social
interaction among pupils and its progression. Sociograms are valuable for showing relationships at any
particular moment and how they may change over time (Sobieski & Dell'Angelo, 2016). By using this tool,
relationships were simplified to three items: good relationships represented with an arrow, bad relationship
represented with a discontinued tail arrow and level of social skills represented with a circle. Each member
of the group was represented with a circle (blue ones for students and yellow ones for teachers). Pupils’
social skills were marked depending on how big the circle was. The bigger the circle the more social skills
shown during the study. The distance of the circles showed the level of social interest among the members
of the group. Therefore, the closer to each other, the most interest showed in interacting. Finally, the
intensity of this interaction between members of the group was represented by increasing the bold level of
the arrows.
1st Trimester
Pau D. started as a main character in the social
interaction side of the group, located in the
centre of the group. On the other hand, Míriam
showed low level of social interaction skills
relating only to Francesc, one of the teachers.
The more intense relation was shown by Arnau
and Pau F., with a mixture of strong feelings.
2nd Trimester
The second sociogram showed an increase on
Míriam relationship to Pau D. and the other
teacher, Agustí. Pau F., increased their level of
social skills as well as decreasing the intensity of
relation to Arnau. Arnau suffered from this lack
of attention and step back on his level of social
skills and intensify his relationship with Agustí.
3rd Trimester
Arnau went back to his initial social skills level
of interaction and added Francesc. Pau D.
increase his level, interacted with everyone and
prompting Míriam’s interaction to the group. Pau
F., kept modelling interaction with Arnau and
achieved better levels of social skills.
Focusing on social interaction, riding learning process was based upon collective rather than
individual approaches. The intervention managed to face pupils’ sedentary behaviour and allowed them to
enjoy themselves by doing leisure and sport activities. Furthermore, the initiative showed the viability of
successfully introducing activities close to Physical Education for pupils with special needs and functional
diversity, as well as minimizing parents’ fears towards a sporting based intervention while showing the
importance of keeping their children active. There is a social need of deescalating fears towards producing
physical education and sport activities for pupils with functional diversity and autism as they can be a useful
tool for increasing, not only motor skill abilities, but enhancing quality of life through being more active
and improving their social skills. Working on social interaction will definitely lead to more active
participation in society and therefore a better social acceptance and awareness.
Although further quantitative research studies incorporating control groups would be needed,
following the promising results reached during the intervention, the reliability of applying the dual
methodology in future interventions was justified. Besides, the importance of generating a positive and
motivating atmosphere between coaches and pupils based on positive behaviour support has to be taken
into account. The study will be used as a training tool for Physical Education trainees and fully qualified
Physical Education teachers training programs in collaboration with FIEP Catalunya, a FIEP Europe
subsidiary organisation
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... In this review, PA is defined as moderate to vigorous exercise as suggested by prior research (Piercy et al., 2018). PA as an intervention has been shown to decrease extraneous motor behaviors (Fragala-Pinkham et al., 2011;Yilmaz et al., 2004), improve social skills (Castillo & Olive 2018;Fragala-Pinkham et al., 2011;Jimeno, 2019;Pan, 2010;Radhakrishna et al., 2010;Sotoodeh et al., 2017), and increase general fitness (Cristian, & Elsayed, 2019;Jimeno, 2019;Kozlowski et al., 2020;Lochbaum, & Crews, 2003;Pan, 2010;Yilmaz et al., 2004). What is more, a variety of PA programs have proven to be therapeutic (successful in decreasing negative symptoms) for those with ASD (Toscano et al., 2017). ...
... This occurred in a lab setting with participants all using the same equipment that was adjusted to their specific needs for the most efficient use. Castillo and Olive (2018) performed their intervention at the Paidea School (a special education school in Barcelona). Tutors, teachers, club managers, and family members were present to help with the intervention and ensure students were engaged and active . ...
... cycling focused (Castillo & Olive, 2018), one neuromuscular focused (Jimeno, 2019), two yoga focused (Kaur, & Bhat, 2019;Koenig et al., 2012), three exergaming focused (Cai et al., 2020;Hilton et al., 2014;Peña et al., 2020), one sport-focused (Duffy et al., 2017). Ten studies analyzed social skills, with three being swimming-related (Ennis, 2011;Lawson and Little, 2017;Pan, 2010), one being cycling-focused (Castillo & Olive, 2018), one neuromuscular (Jimeno, 2019), three yoga focused (Koenig, et al., 2012;Radhakrishna et al., 2010;Sotoodeh, et al., 2017), and three sport-related (Bass et al., 2009;Cai et al., 2020;Gabriels et al., 2015). ...
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This presentation draws from the inset study undertook as a contribution to the Autism Certificate "Understanding Autism in Your School" facilitated by Canterbury Christ Church University and in response to the interest of adapting the PE curriculum at Gretton School ASC specialist school in Girton, UK. The overall purpose of the study was to assess the implementation of QPE principles in school placement for three students with ASC, aged 9, 12 and 17; following theoretical patterns of ASC, and their IBP's and IEP's. The main objective was to implement three curricular adaptations, one for each of the students, based on Sensory Modulation, Intensive Interaction and Leadership Program; according to pupils' needs. A qualitative approach was adopted with analysis of a range of outcomes from PE sessions and comprehensive literature review. Although the pupils presented three different levels of interaction, the intensive curriculum adaptation through Sensory Modulation, Intensive Interaction and Leadership Programs in each case, shows that physical exercise based on QPE principles helps in reducing of aggression, increasing levels of participation, decreasing levels of anxiety and hyperactivity, stereotypical behaviour modelling as well as raising levels of self-esteem.
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Autism Spectrum Disorder affects up to 2.5% of children and is associated with harmful health outcomes (e.g. obesity). Low levels of physical activity and high levels of sedentary behaviors may contribute to harmful health outcomes. To systematically review the prevalence and correlates of physical activity and sedentary behaviors in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, electronic databases (PsycINFO, SPORTDiscus, EMBASE, Medline) were searched from inception to November 2015. The review was registered with PROSPERO (CRD42014013849). Peer-reviewed, English language studies were included. Two reviewers screened potentially relevant articles. Outcomes of interest were physical activity and sedentary behaviour levels and their potential correlates. Data were collected and analysed in 2015. Of 35 included studies, 15 reported physical activity prevalence, 10 reported physical activity correlates, 18 reported sedentary behavior prevalence, and 10 reported sedentary behavior correlates. Estimates of children’s physical activity (34–166 mins/day, average 86 mins/day) and sedentary behavior (126–558 mins/day in screen time, average 271 mins/day; 428–750 mins/day in total sedentary behavior, average 479 mins/day) varied across studies. Age was consistently inversely associated, and sex inconsistently associated with physical activity. Age and sex were inconsistently associated with sedentary behavior. Sample sizes were small. All but one of the studies were classified as having high risk of bias. Few correlates have been reported in sufficient studies to provide overall estimates of associations. Potential correlates in the physical environment remain largely unexamined. This review highlights varying levels of physical activity and sedentary behavior in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Research is needed to consistently identify the correlates of these behaviors. There is a critical need for interventions to support healthy levels of these behaviors.
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Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) indicates several neurodevelopmental impairments which may end in impairments in motor or physical activities. Daily physical activity involvement was investigated in a total of 83 children (52 boys and 31 girls) with ASD aged 6-15 years. Results indicated that only 10 (12%) of children with ASD were physically active. Children were predominantly engaged in solitary play rather than social play activities. Gender, family income, and household structure were found to be associated with activity scores. Financial burden and lack of opportunities were noted as the leading barriers to physical activities. In conclusion, findings indicated a low rate of physical activity participation in children with ASD that is closely associated with sociodemographic variables.
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Research demonstrates substantial health benefits of physical activity (PA), especially moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA). Several studies suggest that MVPA may be especially beneficial to children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) including improved physiological, cognitive, psychological and behavioral functioning. However, few PA-based interventions have targeted adolescents with ASD, when PA rates are shown to decline significantly, primarily focusing instead on children with ASD. Further, these studies have varied significantly in methodological rigor, making it difficult to disentangle consistent findings of effective intervention. Given a majority of adolescents with ASD fail to meet national recommendations for daily PA and demonstrate lower rates of PA relative to their non-disabled peers, identifying effective interventions for this population is needed. The purpose of this systematic review was to collect and synthesize evidence from studies of PA-based interventions for adolescents with ASD (N=19) to identify benefits of PA and effective strategies for increasing PA in adolescents with ASD. The strongest empirical support for the benefits of PA was identified for self-regulation, health, and motor skills, while evidence remains limited or absent for benefits related to improvements to cognitive, language, and sensorimotor functioning. Highly effective intervention mechanisms identified included prompting, modeling, praise, and structured teaching.
While physical activity (PA) is often overwhelming for people with ASD, appropriate engagement strategies can result in increased motivation to participate and associated physical and psychosocial benefits. In this framework, the multi-sport Supporting Success program aims to inform good-practice coaching strategies for community coaches to engage with adolescents with ASD in order to foster socialisation. The project employs a community development approach and a Participatory Action Research (PAR) design. Methods include ongoing consultation, focus groups, briefing/debriefing sessions and questionnaire surveys. Preliminary findings indicate that coaching strategies and program design are fundamental variables in the use of sport/PA to help adolescents with ASD to develop social skills and share positive experiences with peers, coaches, educators and local community members.
Individual, social, and community barriers to physical activity (PA) experienced by children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) make PA participation more difficult and may contribute to increased screen time. We compared the prevalence of parent-reported barriers to PA among 58 typically developing (TD) children and 53 children with an ASD, 3-11 years, and assessed the association between barriers and PA participation and screen time among children with ASD. Parents of children with ASD reported significantly more barriers than parents of TD children. Based on parent-report, 60% of children with ASD required too much supervision compared to no TD children (p<0.001). Parents of children with ASD were more likely to report that adults lack skills needed to include their child (58%), that their child has few friends (45%), and that other children exclude their child (23%). The number of parent-reported barriers to PA was inversely correlated with the hours spent in PA per year (r=-0.27, p=0.05) and positively related to total screen time (r=0.32, p<0.03). These findings underscore the need for community-based PA programs designed to meet the special requirements of this population and policies that compel schools and other government-supported organizations for inclusion and/or targeted programming.
The theory of mind account of autism has been remarkably successful in making specific predictions about the impairments in socialization, imagination and communication shown by people with autism. It cannot, however, explain either the non-triad features of autism, or earlier experimental findings of abnormal assets and deficits on non-social tasks. These unexplained aspects of autism, and the existence of autistic individuals who consistently pass false belief tasks, suggest that it may be necessary to postulate an additional cognitive abnormality. One possible abnormality - weak central coherence - is discussed, and preliminary evidence for this theory is presented.
As an occupational therapist running social play groups with sensory integration for children on the autism spectrum, the author frequently doubted the wisdom of combining several children on the spectrum into a group. In fact, as the owner of a clinic she said, "No more!" The groups seemed like a waste of parents' time and money, and she refused to run any groups at all. However, when she heard about Dr. Pamela J. Wolfberg's work, known as Integrated Play Groups (IPGs), it made sense. Children learn from their normally functioning peers. This is why there is inclusion rather than exclusion. In this article, the author discusses what exactly IPG is and describes what happens in an IPG session when combined with occupational therapy, as well as the frequency and average duration of an IPG program. A summary of benefits of the Integrated Play Groups Model for Novice, and Expert players is also provided.
Factsheet: Intensive Interaction. Bild, all about people
British Institute of Learning Disabilities. (2004) Factsheet: Intensive Interaction. Bild, all about people. Retrieved from