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Researchers posit that physical activity (PA) settings may provide an increased opportunity for social interaction. However, little consensus exists regarding the construct of social skills. Moreover, little is known about what type or amount of PA is necessary for individuals on the autism spectrum to benefit from this increased interaction. Thus, this scoping review synthesized the components (e.g., design, participants, independent and dependent variables, etc.) and findings of PA-based interventions that included social skill components to identify how interventions have incorporated these skills in different settings. Based on a review of 25 articles, this review revealed a great deal of variability in the types of PA, social skills, and instruments studied, as well as the intensity of intervention delivery in the published findings. No longitudinal studies were identified as a part of the search. These results provide a foundation for the design of effective PA-based interventions that may have an increased impact on the social skills of individuals on the autism spectrum. Future research should employ longitudinal designs to capture the relationship between social skills and PA, as well as to increase the likelihood of capturing change.
Colombo-Dougovito is with the University of North Texas, Denton, TX, USA. Lee is with San José State University, San Jose, CA, USA.