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  • Author: Helen Skouteris x
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Tamara May, Nicole Rinehart, Lisa Barnett, Trina Hinkley, Jane McGillivray, Helen Skouteris, Delwyne Stephens and Debra Goldfinch

Numerous barriers exist for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to engage in sporting activities, including behavioral problems and motor deficits. This study explored parent experiences of and influences on child participation in an 11-week Australian Football League (AFL) Auskick football program adapted for children with ASD as well as changes in their motor skills. The program was run in 2014 (Phase 1) and 2015 (Phase 2). In Phase 1 thematic analyses of nine parent interviews and pre-post parent proxy report of children’s motor skills were conducted with 15 parents. In Phase 2 pre-post objective motor skill assessment was undertaken in a separate sample of 13 children. Three key themes were identified: benefit of doing something ‘normal’; simple adaptations work; and, despite barriers, the benefits are worthwhile. Parent-proxy report indicated improvement in child object control skills. Objective assessment showed no change in children’s motor skill. Parental experiences of the program indicated that simple accommodations can engage children with ASD and their families in organized sporting programs. Given potential psychosocial and health benefits of organized sports, further controlled studies of this type of program in children with ASD are warranted.