This research is important because it focuses on the well-being of Autistic individuals. Autistic people are more likely to experience health and mental health issues. Engaging in physical activity is proven to reduce these risks and improve overall well-being. However, we still don't know enough about the things that make it easier or harder for Autistic children and adults to participate in organised sports and physical activities in Australia. New insights about the barriers and facilitators will be used by Aspect Autism Friendly to help sporting organisations and groups create better opportunities for Autistic individuals to enjoy the benefits of physical activity.
What helps Autistic people participate? What makes it difficult for Autistic people to participate?
We collected data from 272 people through an online survey:
- 169 parents/caregivers responded in relation to their Autistic child (aged 5 to 17 years)
- 103 Autistic adults responded about their experiences as a child and now.
The survey asked about the Autistic person’s participation in sport and physical activities, and what may make it harder or easier to participate in those activities.
What we learnt
Making a difference
This study found a glaring unmet need and a strong desire within the Autistic community for more accessible and inclusive opportunities for physical activities. Our findings also indicate that negative past experiences have significantly contributed to the disengagement of many Autistic individuals from physical activities altogether.
Aspect Autism Friendly will use the recommendations to inform our work and Aspect will continue to build awareness and tackle stigma. Recommendations include:
- Work with sporting organisations to improve staff knowledge, skills and inclusive practice; and pilot flexible programs.
- Advocate to allow support persons to accompany Autistic participants.
- Develop guidelines and resources to assist sporting organisations.
- Promote stories of Autistic sporting participation to build community awareness and tackle stigma.
- Facilitate opportunities for Autistic community input into program design.
- Showcase examples of inclusive physical activity programs that are working well.
- Education Daily: Autistic students want more inclusive participation in sports (15 February 2024)
- ABC Radio National: Sunday Extra (5 November 2023)
- ABC News: Sporting event hopes to improve participation in sport for kids on autism-spectrum (4 November 2023)
Dr Chris Edwards, Lead Researcher, ARCAP
Dr Vicki Gibbs, ARCAP
Dr Tom Tutton, Aspect Autism Friendly
Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect)