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Developing Social Skills of Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder for Physical Activity Using a Movement-Based Program

Jihyun Lee, Seung Ho Chang, and Jerred Jolin

The motor and social skill difficulties experienced by many children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can create challenges when participating in age appropriate physical activity contexts. Although behavioral interventions can increase the general social communicative skills of children with ASD, often the skills targeted are not relevant to physical activity contexts. Thus, this pilot study utilized a movement-based intervention program to support children with ASD in learning both social and movement skills that are relevant to physical activity contexts. Nineteen children with ASD with a mean age of 9.3 (±3.0) years participated in this program for 8 weeks, twice a week, at a recreation center as an afterschool activity. Six object control skills were selected and tested before and after the intervention because these gross motor skills were considered to elicit human interactions and place demands on social skills. Ten social skills were selected, aligned to each program context, taught, and evaluated. This intervention resulted in significant improvements in object-control skills for the participants. Additionally, there were significantly more participants who demonstrated improvements in their performance of the target social skills than who did not demonstrate improvements. These preliminary findings provide support for the feasibility of developing interventions that address social skill deficits in the context of physically active settings for children with ASD.