Merytt Haney, Alexander Pomeroy, Lee Stoner, FACSM. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC.

BACKGROUND: Limited extracurricular opportunities exist for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in public schools due to limited effective training resources, which can result in social issues in classrooms in this population. These detriments may be able to be combated through specialized athletic involvement at an early cognitive development stage which promotes social skills through verbal interaction specifically for children with ASD. The objective of this study is to determine the feasibility of an 8-week organized team fitness intervention to increase parent-reported social skills related to verbal communication. in a sample size of 40, 6-12 year old with ASD. METHODS: We will collect data from Oak City Soccer, an established non-profit soccer program with trained in behavioral responses for children on the autism spectrum. There will be a sample of 80 children, 6-12 years old with ASD, with 40 in the intervention group and 40 in a control group. The intervention group will have trained instructors from Oak City Soccer planning constructive soccer activities each session, while the control group will have access to the same facilities, but only supervision. A survey will be conducted at baseline and at the end of 8 weeks where parents rate the social skills of their child. Survey questions will be on a Likert scale of 1-5, with higher scores indicating greater social skills. Social skill improvements will be measured with surveys of parents assessed ratings of their child’s social interaction. ANTICIPATED RESULTS: We predict that our findings will display that through an extracurricular soccer skill-based program, children with ASD will have gained increased social skills by parent assessment. If the intervention shows feasibility, then similar programs could be used to facilitate the assimilation of students into mainstream classrooms.

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