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A randomised controlled trial study investigating the effectiveness of parent training on promoting physical activity in children with autism spectrum disorder

A randomised controlled trial study investigating the effectiveness of parent training on promoting physical activity in children with autism spectrum disorder

  • Project Leader
  • Dr YU, Chung Wah Clare (Department of Health and Physical Education) 
  • Description
  • The proposed work will provide unique data on the impact of parent involvement in an exercise training programme on physical and psychological well-being in children with ASD, as well as parenting stress and efficacy, with important implications on the health promotion in children of ASD and their families. 
  • Scheme
  • General Research Fund 
  • Year
  • 2018/2019 

Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are typically less physically active and with lower exercise tolerance due to their limitation in social interaction and communication. They are therefore more prone to chronic diseases in adulthood, which may be avoidable by early intervention. Although exercise training is proven to improve not only physical health but also various behavioural outcomes in school-aged children with ASD, little has been done to study exercise training programmes that caters for their special needs and limitations. Parents play an important role in children’s participation of physical activities. However, parents of children with ASD often find it difficult to encourage their children to take part in physical activities due to lower parenting efficacy. It has been reported that Chinese mothers of children with ASD has high parenting stress, which is associated with negative perception of a child’s disability and low parental confidence. Parent training programs have been reported to have positive effects on children with disabilities and their parents. However, the effectiveness of parent training in an exercise training programme to promote physical activity in children with ASD, specially in the Chinese setting, is not known. Guided by Eccles’s (1998) expectancy-value theory, we propose testing the impact of parental involvement in an exercise training programme specially designed for children with ASD. Children in the experiment group (with parent training) and control group will receive an exercise training program for eight weeks. In the experiment group, parents of the children will be additionally equipped with knowledge of Sport Sciences, Developmental Pediatrics and Developmental Psychology, and will act as an observer and motivator to their child’s physical activity participation during the 8-week training period. They will also serve as the provider of physical activity opportunities to their child during the one-year follow up period, during which parents’ support group and reinforcement sessions will be arranged. Children’s outcomes and parents’ outcomes will be compared between the experiment and control group. The proposed work will provide unique data on the impact of parent involvement in an exercise training programme on physical and psychological well-being in children with ASD, as well as parenting stress and efficacy, with important implications on the health promotion in children of ASD and their families.

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