Wanted – Kids and young people living with autism spectrum disorder
We need your help to make it easier for kids and teens living with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to get involved in physical activity and sport.
Novita is looking for 45 kids and teens aged 6-17 who live with ASD and who have low-intensity support needs in social communication to take part in a research project called Getting into the Game. The project will help to work out the best way to measure physical activity and sports skills for kids and young people living with ASD, to assist their involvement in more sports and activities.
We need just two hours of your time – that’s it! Participants will receive a gift card as a thank you for their time and a voucher to assist with travel costs.
Your participation could support more children and young people with ASD to be more involved in physical activity. This could also potentially support them to benefit from the many health and wellbeing benefits of an active lifestyle.
What will I have to do in the research project?
Participants will attend two sessions with a Novita physiotherapist to do some fun physical activities as part of an assessment called the Ignite Challenge. This includes things like bouncing and catching a ball with a partner, weaving around cones placed in a pathway, running and stopping fast, balancing and jumping.
The sessions will take place between one and three weeks apart and last for about 45 – 60 minutes each. At the moment the sessions can take place at Novita’s Regency Park and St Marys offices but the team hope to be able to offer them in more locations in 2019.
Parents or guardians will be asked a series of questions at the first session to help the researcher understand more about the child’s regular physical activity, movement and social skills.
At the second session (or at another time of your choosing), the child or young person will also be offered the opportunity to talk to a researcher about their experiences with being active and playing sports, if they want to do this.
Kids and teens aged 6-17, who live with ASD and who have low-intensity support needs in social communication, are invited to take part until November 2019. There is no cost to participate as the sessions are paid for by our research funding.
Individual participants will remain anonymous in the findings and published research – no names or personal information will be used.
What’s in it for me?
Taking part in this research will be an opportunity to find out a bit more about what physical activities you can do well and what skills you find more difficult. It could lead you to participate in sports or activities where you find you have strengths. You might also discover some new goals to work on.
There are not very many programs or services that offer support for families of kids and teens living with ASD to develop a child’s movement skills and fitness, and young people living with ASD can often feel excluded from community or school-based sports programs. More and more families are coming to Novita asking for physical activity and fitness or sports programs, especially as movement difficulties are common in kids and young people living with ASD.
By participating in this research you are assisting us to develop a specific assessment tool that will enable us to match more people living with ASD with programs, sports and activities that are most appropriate for them.
Taking part in the Ignite Challenge is safe and designed to be fun for kids and young people to do. There is no cost to participate, and you will receive a gift card as a thank you for your time, and a voucher to assist with travel costs.
Your views and experiences are very valuable and will help us to create a user guide for physiotherapists and coaches that will make the Ignite Challenge fun and beneficial for kids and teens. We’d love for you to tell us what it’s like to do the Ignite Challenge assessment and to share your experiences on why you choose to take part in physical activity (or sports), or not take part.
We hope the results will help us make the Ignite Challenge as good an assessment as it can be, and will support us to make it fun for all kids and young people living with ASD.
Why is this research project needed?
Kids and young people living with ASD are often less active than their friends and siblings, and less likely to be involved in sport and organised physical activities. This is in part because they may have difficulties with skills like running, balancing, and planning and coordinating different movements. They might also miss out on taking part in sport and physical activity because the sports leaders may not be aware of their sensory challenges, differences in their understanding of body language, and increased fear and anxiety in social situations.
As well, kids and young people living with ASD may be excluded from physical activity and sport because some of their behaviours can be perceived as being a problem. There are often many reasons that explain the behaviours, such as a reaction to a particular sensory sensitivity, information overload or a misunderstanding with communication. This exclusion contributes to children and young people with autism becoming less active and can further affect their development and confidence in their movement skills. Australian guidelines recommend that everyone aged 5 to 18 years old should be active for at least 60 minutes every day. 10 or 20-minute intervals of activity added up over the day tend to be easier and more enjoyable for most people.
The benefits of being active include:
- Healthy growth and development
- Improving balance, coordination and strength
- Building strong bones and muscles
- Better sleep
- Reducing stress
- Feeling more relaxed
- Improving confidence and self-esteem
- Opportunities to develop social skills and make friends
- Developing good physical activity habits for life
Despite all these great benefits, we know that around 80% of all young Australians don’t spend enough time being active each day; that percentage is likely to be even greater among those who live with ASD.
Research tells us that physical activity programs for kids and young people with ASD can be particularly beneficial and produce moderate to large benefits in communication and social skills, movement skills, fitness, muscular strength and coordination. Knowing the benefits of being active, it is important that people living with autism shouldn’t miss out on the opportunity to take part in sports or activities they enjoy.
Novita undertakes research projects and develops new technologies to ensure the services we offer are always the best practice. The Novita team is really excited about this new project and exploring how to better measure movement and physical activity in kids and young people living with ASD. Novita researchers are leading this project and working with an expert colleague from Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital in Toronto, Canada who has a keen interest and experience in this area.
The full title of the project is ‘Getting into the Game: Evaluation of advanced motor skills of school-aged children living with Autism Spectrum Disorder’.
What’s the aim of the research project?
There is currently no assessment that fully captures the movement issues of kids and young people living with ASD. This is a problem for families and clinicians because they are unable to fully understand a child’s movement strengths and challenges, or accurately measure how well certain therapies are working. Many community and school-based physical activity and sport programs also find it difficult to know the best way to include kids living with ASD. This information about movement is an important starting point to help them do this better.
The aim of this research is to find out the best way to measure the physical activity and movement skills of kids and young people living with ASD. We hope the findings will give families a better understanding of their child’s movement skill strengths as well as the activities they find more difficult. The experiences of kids and teens who take part in this research will also help to make sure the Ignite Challenge assessment is fun and appropriate for kids and young people living with ASD.
In the years to come, this knowledge will also support Novita and other agencies to have a better understanding of how to provide services and programs that support people living with ASD to become more active.
These could include:
- Pathways for young people with ASD to develop physical activity and movement skills that enable them to find a sport or activity they enjoy.
- Enabling easier participation for kids and young people with ASD to take part in physical activities and sports. We know that people who take part in these programs improve their social and communication skills as well as their fitness, strength and coordination skills, so there are many benefits.
- Practical strategies for physiotherapists and coaches to make physical activities and sports more accessible to people living with ASD.
Findings from the research should be available in mid-2020. We hope it will enable Novita to further develop services to support young people living with ASD to be more physically active and to enjoy an active lifestyle.
Sounds great. Sign me up!
If you are aged 6-17 years old and living with ASD (and you have low-intensity support needs in social communication) we’d love to hear from you.
Apply online or call us on 1300 668 482 to register your interest.
You will need to be available to come to Novita for two physical activity assessments, each taking 45-60 minutes, before November 2019.
You will remain anonymous in the research findings.
This research project has been given approval by the Women’s & Children’s Health Network Human Research Ethics Committee. The project is funded by the Channel 7 Children’s Research Foundation.
If you have any questions or comments about the study please contact us on 1300 668 482.
If you are a parent or carer and would like more information about the study you can download our Getting Into The Game Information Sheet for Parents.
If you are a young person who would like the find out more you can download our Getting Into The Game Information Sheet for Kids.