SOCIAL EFFECTS OF PHYSICAL ACTIVITY ON CHILDREN WITH ASD IN SCHOOL
University of Wales Institute Cardiff
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Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) need opportunities to develop social and communication skills so that they are able to live independently and interact in today’s society. These special children find it difficult to understand and act appropriately in social situations with others. This means that treatments/interventions that decrease their negative behaviour and increase positive skills and behaviours are needed in schools to help children to develop (Rouse, 2009). The aim of this study is to find out if physical activity has an effect on social interaction, communication and stereotypical behaviours in children with ASD. Three groups of 13 - 14 year olds with ASD took part in the study. The three groups were classed in abilities; Group 1 – Low ability, Group 2 – Medium ability, Group 3 – High Ability. Using an observation tally created using previous literature and researcher knowledge, the children were observed before and during physical activity in a physical education class in two schools. The Legacy Dialog Chi² test was used to analyse the data collected to find out if there are significant differences between the three groups. Line graphs were also used to provide visual comparison. The results show that Low Ability group and Medium Ability group had significant changes from before to during physical activity, where there were positive increases to social and communication skills and a decrease in stereotypical behaviour. The High Ability group also had improvements in five of the eight sub-themes used. For example all three groups had a large increase in making eye contact and allowing/ initiating touch that may have been due to the social situations created in the physical activity to allow opportunities for positive skills to increase. The research found that physical activity had a positive effect on the behaviours and skills of children with ASD, showing that physical activity is an important part of a school’s curriculum. Schools can look deeper into how physical activity benefits their students socially and as well as focusing on physical skills, schools could also include activities that specifically allow social situations where social skills and communication can be developed and administered.
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