Tag Archive for 'asd'

Football and autism

There are few research studies conducted on the topic of soccer and autism, below are the studies on youth with ASD presented in an article by Vetri and Roccella (2020). On the Playing Field to Improve: A Goal for Autism. Medicine, 56.

Hayward et al. (2016) investigated a group of 18 children with ASD (7-11 years old) who participated in a 16-week community-based program The authors assessed physical activity outcomes such as pre- and post-football skills, participant attendance, and parent satisfaction. The purpose of their soccer program was to teach children with ASD the basic soccer skills while giving them the opportunity to have fun and interact with peers. The results supported the feasibility and effectiveness of a soccer program because they showed improvements in shot accuracy and agility on the 15-yard line. Parents’ overall satisfaction was very good and perceived their children as more active and enjoying playing soccer

Calcio Insieme is a project promoted by the Fondazione Roma Cares (a non-profit organization linked to AS ROMA and the sport association Accademia di Calcio Integrato). Cei et al. (2017) recruited 30 children with ASD (6-13 years old) to study the effects of a soccer-based training program. All children underwent initial and final quantitative motor assessment. The authors used a qualitative approach to assess psychosocial skills at the beginning and end of the training period through interviews with their parents and teachers of the youth. Results showed that parents and teachers perceived most children with ASD to have improved psychosocial and communication skills. Motor skills assessed quantitatively showed significant improvement in the following six out of ten tests: walking between cones, running between cones, rolling on the mat, jumping high (three 20/30 cm obstacles), grasping (five throws from 1 to 5 m away from the instructor), and staying balanced on the jellyfish.

A third research was conducted by Chambers and Radley (2020) who used a different approach. preferring a peer-mediated intervention to promote skill acquisition in children with ASD. The authors selected three male students with autism (ages 11 and 12, respectively) and instructed a 14-year-old peer interventionist common to all three participants. The soccer skills assessed were throwing, kicking, and defense. During the training sessions, the peer explained and demonstrated soccer skills to the children with ASD and provided technical instruction after practice to correct errors. At the end of the study, the three participants rapidly acquired the coached soccer skills and accuracy in executing the skills persisted over time, in the absence of any peer intervention.

Autism, sport and summer camp

Summer camp for children with ASD and parents’ perception of changes in psycho-social skills


IJSP, 2019, 50, 162-175

The study examined in children with ASD their psychosocial behaviors pre/post a summer sport camp of two intensive weeks in term of time (5 hours per day) and multidisciplinary approach. Participants were 29 children (8-13 years) from mild to severe degrees of ASD. They alternated the three activities each day for a time of 75 minutes: soccer, aquatic activities and expressive activities. The team leading the camp consisted in coaches, sport psychologists, one speech-language therapist and one physician. The Adaptive Social Skills Measure (Walker et al. 2010) has been used to assess the children psychosocial skills in four areas: verbal communication, social interaction, transitions and attention to task. The parents filled the questionnaire pre/post the camp assessing the psychosocial competences of their children. Results showed the parents perceived significant improvement in children for all four subscales. The data outlined the relevance to study in a natu- ralistic context these psychosocial skills in a short period of training but intensive for number of hours per day and activities practiced.

Review: motor coordination, autism

The sport is increasingly getting closer to the world of youth with autism (ASD) and it can be of considerable help in improving their motor skills and their degree of autonomy, reducing the risk of acquiring a sedentary lifestyle. This review, although published a few years ago, provides valuable information to those who want to propose physical education and sports programs for young with ASD. They are not practical information but those theories, science-based, that who is approaching these young  should know (obviously along with many others).

Motor Coordination in Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Synthesis and Meta-Analysis

Kimberly A. Fournier, Chris J. Hass, Sagar K. Naik, Neha Lodha, and James H. Cauraugh

J Autism Dev Disord (2010) 40:1227–1240

The literature focusing on gross motor behavior and development in ASD is plagued by inconsistent findings.

ASD is associated with greater clumsiness, motor coordination abnormalities, postural instability, and poor performance on standardized tests of motor functioning

Several studies failed to detect differences between children with ASD and those with learning disabilities or mental retardation, general developmental delay and language disorders across reflexive, intentional, fine and gross motor tasks.

These studies provide critical information regarding the types of motor impairments seen in ASD, but the specific patterns and sources of motor deficits in this population remain unclear.

Other approaches to elucidating motor components of ASD include neural signaling. Abnormal transmission in the serotonergic, dopaminergic, and GABAergic systems, frequently observed in ASD, may potentially affect motor performance

Individuals with ASD have larger total brain, cerebellar and caudate nucleus volumes; however, the area of the corpus callosum is reduced.

Several related studies in which motor behavior was evaluated using home videos of children later diagnosed with ASD compared to typically developing children demonstrated motor differences within the first 2 years of age.

This review study showed:

Differences in motor performance observed are not dependent upon a specific diagnosis within ASD. Indeed, individuals diagnosed with autism, globally as ASD, or Asperger’s syndrome all possessed significant motor deficits compared to the individuals with normal neurologic development.

An immature postural system may severely limit the emergence and performance of other motor skills.

Movement disturbances such as akinesia, dyskinesia and bradykinesia may affect a person’s ability to initiate, switch, continue or effectively communicate, interact socially, or perform activities of daily living.

That motor coordination deficits were more prevalent in individuals diagnosed with ASD than in controls with neurologically typical development.

Consistent evidence for an increase in total brain volume as well as specific brain regions including the cerebral hemispheres, caudate nucleus, and cerebellum in autism. Conversely, the corpus callosum was consistently reduced in size. Moreover, post mortem studies have detailed increased numbers of altered cortical mini-columns that may lead to a less well-organized cerebral cortex and less integration among brain regions reported children with high functioning autism demonstrated diffusely decreased connectivity across the motor execution network relative to children with normal neurodevelopment.

Children with high functioning autism had significantly smaller grey matter volumes in subcortical, posterior cingulate, and precuneus regions than those diagnosed with Asperger’s. Compared to controls, smaller grey matter volumes in predominantly frontopallidal regions were observed in high functioning autism where as in Asperger’s less grey matter was observed in bilateral caudate and left thalamus. It has been found higher white matter volumes around the basal ganglia in high functioning autism than in Asperger’s or controls. Both ASD groups, however, possessed greater white matter volume than controls. Conversely, both ASD groups had less frontal and corpus collasol white matter.

Taken together these mechanistic findings suggest a broad, large area with disarranged neuronal organization and cortical connectivity across ASD.

Review book: The Autism Fitness Handbook

The Autism Fitness Handbook

David S. Geslak

Jessica Kingsley Publishers, London & Philadelphia

2015, 168 p. – 54 illustrations


This book is one of the very few contributions devoted to provide information, guidance and practical supports  to people who want to start a motor program with children and youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The main goal achieved by David Geslak is to write and focus us on abilities, rather than on mental and physical problems. It’s a true fitness book, which describe a specific program based on 46 exercises to practice. The Author said the program has been used not only with children but with adults too, determining improvements independently from the ability possessed at the begin of the activity.

The program is divided in four parts: engage, educate, empower and exercise. The first part talks about the way to involve the children in the program. In this section very important are the patient and motivation of the teachers, their ability to provide structure and routine and the use of visual supports (e.g., pictures, cards, timers), in the same time it’s important that the parents at home are committed in the same direction, improving the child health, for example also following an adequate food and beverage management and continue the movement activities.  The second part talks about education, that means why they are exercising. In this section are described the five components of physical fitness: body image, motor coordination, posture, muscular and cardiovascular fitness. There is also an additional item regarding the children abdominal strength, part of the body image and muscular fitness,  weak in these children and it needs to be reinforced. The third part talks about empower, in this section are reviewed the champion stories and exercise routines used by David Geslak with eight people with ASD. The fourth part regards the exercise area. It proposes exercises following the five components, including abdominal strength. Each of the 46 exercises is described in term of goal satisfied, how to do, repetitions and coaching tips. I appreciate this contribute to spread the physically active life style also in children with ASD, based on the assertive concept to start from their competences to improve them in the long period with a specific program.

Book review: Children and Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Children and Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

James K. Luiselli (Ed.)

New York, Oxford University Press

2014, 266 p.


My interest as sport psychologist in the autism disorder is born from the idea that the motor-cognitive activities and sport could affect this mental disorder in positive way improving globally the youth life style and their psychosocial and motor skills. It could seem obvious to underly this concept but it’s not, for the reason that till today it has been very few to involve these individuals in sport or motor programs on regular basis. From my side as practitioner reading this book I received a lot of updated information about autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as  a relatively new diagnostic label which reflects the variability in the differentiation of symptomatology among children and youth commonly described as having autistic disorder, high-functioning autism (HFA), and Asperger’s syndrome.

Skillfully edited by James K. Luiselli Children and Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a book of 15 chapters describing not only the theories about the autistic disorders but in same time presents the current best practices emerged from the evidence-based research, research-to-practice translation of empirically supported procedures, and consensus-driven recommendations from multiple disciplines.

For sport professionnels like coaches, sport managers, physicians and psychologists this book provide al leats three kinds of main information. The first is that also for these youth the sport determines healthy effects on their life. Second, in the same time, it’s not clear which could be the best coaching program to provide them and third we have a lot to learn from the other settings of their life, with the aim to adapt the strategies used in school or in other naturalistic approaches to build a program. Goal of the program is to develop self-management and self-regulation of their life starting from easy tasks. In my opinion, the most relevant chapter, after that ones of the first section devoted to diagnoses, assessment and measurement, is in the second section and it’s titled “Self-management and Self-regulation”. It provides the main frame to understand the goal of the interventions in the different area of the life while all the other chapters cover specific topics to achieve this goal of self-management.

All the other chapters are very interesting and each reader will find that one that will be more useful to reach his/her goals with these guys. The seven chapters of the section two describe best practices and from all of them sport practitioners can receive information and support to build their programs. Sections three (with the chapter on Exercise, Physical Activity and Sports) and four discuss in deep topics regarding food, sleep, mindful caregivers, cognitive-behavioral therapy and behavioral family intervention.

I recommend this book to all work in sport with youth of mental disorders, it provides information research-based and best practices to know in order to improve the program with youth with special needs