Effects of Family-Professional Partnerships in Adapted Physical Education on the Fundamental Motor Skills, Adaptive Behaviors, and Physical Activity Levels of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and on Parent Satisfaction



Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often face challenges with fundamental motor skills, physical activity levels, and adaptive behaviors. Adapted Physical Education (APE) programs can significantly improve these areas. But a recent study published in April 2024 suggests that involving families in the process can lead to even greater benefits.


Understanding the Landscape: ASD and the Need for Support


Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental condition characterized by social communication challenges and restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviors or interests. Children with ASD may experience difficulties in various areas, including:

  • Fundamental motor skills: These are the basic movement skills needed for daily life and physical activity, such as running, jumping, throwing, and catching.
  • Adaptive behaviors: These are skills essential for independent living, such as self-care, communication, and social interaction.
  • Physical activity levels: Children with ASD often engage in less physical activity than their typically developing peers. This can lead to a number of health concerns, including obesity and cardiovascular issues.


Adapted Physical Education (APE) programs are designed to meet the unique needs of children with disabilities, including those with ASD. APE programs typically involve modified activities, specialized equipment, and individualized instruction to help children develop their fundamental motor skills, improve their physical fitness, and promote participation in physical activity.


The Power of Partnership: Family Involvement Makes a Difference


The research, titled “Effects of Family-Professional Partnerships in Adapted Physical Education on the Fundamental Motor Skills, Adaptive Behaviors, and Physical Activity Levels of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and on Parent Satisfaction,” investigated the impact of family-school collaboration in APE programs for children with ASD.


The study divided participants into three groups:

  • Family-School Group with Active Partnership (FSG-A): Children in this group participated in an APE program that actively involved their families. Parents received training on the APE program’s goals and strategies and were encouraged to participate in their child’s practice sessions at home.
  • Standard School Group (SG-B): This group received a typical APE program without a specific family involvement component.
  • Control Group (CG-C): Children in this group did not participate in any APE program.


Stronger Together: The Impact of Collaboration on Key Areas


The results were promising. Children in the FSG-A group showed significant improvement compared to the other groups in several key areas:

  • Fundamental Motor Skills: The FSG-A group demonstrated greater development in basic movement skills like running, jumping, and throwing compared to the SG-B and CG-C groups. This improvement can translate into better balance, coordination, and overall physical competence, which are crucial for participation in various physical activities and games.
  • Adaptive Behaviors: Children in the FSG-A group exhibited improvements in daily living skills, communication, and social interaction compared to the other groups. Family involvement likely contributed to a more comprehensive approach, where therapists could address challenges faced in daily routines and social settings, complementing the skills practiced during APE sessions.
  • Physical Activity Levels: The FSG-A group showed a significant increase in physical activity levels compared to both the SG-B and CG-C groups. This can lead to numerous health benefits, including improved cardiovascular health, weight management, and stronger bones and muscles. Increased physical activity can also contribute to better sleep patterns and emotional well-being.
  • Parental Satisfaction: Parents of children in the FSG-A group reported higher levels of satisfaction with their child’s progress in the program compared to the other groups. This highlights the importance of not only achieving results but also empowering families to feel involved and equipped to support their child’s development.


These findings suggest that incorporating families into APE programs for children with ASD can lead to a more holistic and effective approach. Family involvement likely contributes to a smoother transition between school-based therapies and home environments, reinforcing the learned skills and promoting consistency.

Building Bridges Beyond the Study: Practical Applications for Educators and Families

This research adds to the growing body of evidence highlighting the importance of family involvement in interventions for children with ASD. Here are some takeaways for educators and families:

  • Collaboration is Key:Open communication and collaboration between educators and families are crucial for successful APE programs. Educators can share the program’s goals and strategies with families, and families can provide valuable insights into their child’s strengths, challenges, and preferences. This two-way street fosters a sense of shared responsibility and creates a more cohesive support system for the child.
  • Empowering Families:Educators can equip families with strategies and techniques to support their child’s development at home. This may involve providing parents with home practice routines that complement the activities practiced in APE sessions. Workshops, informational sessions, or online resources can empower families with knowledge and equip them to become active participants in their child’s APE journey.
  • Continuity of Care:Shared goals and consistent practice across home and school environments can significantly improve outcomes. When families understand the program’s objectives and can translate the practiced strategies into daily routines at home, children with ASD benefit from a more holistic approach to their development. This continuity of care optimizes progress and reinforces the skills learned during APE sessions.
  • Building Confidence:Family involvement can play a significant role in building a child’s confidence. As families participate in APE activities alongside their child or learn strategies to support their child’s participation, they create positive and encouraging experiences. This fosters a sense of self-efficacy in the child, motivating them to engage more actively in physical activities.
  • Celebrating Progress:Regular communication between educators and families allows for ongoing monitoring of a child’s progress. Sharing successes, big or small, with families helps celebrate milestones and reinforces the positive impact of family involvement in the APE program. This collaborative approach fosters a sense of accomplishment and motivates everyone involved to continue working towards the child’s developmental goals.
  • Beyond the Classroom:The principles of family involvement extend beyond the confines of the APE program. Educators can equip families with strategies to incorporate movement and physical activity into everyday routines. This can include encouraging participation in family walks, bike rides, or even simple games that involve physical movement. By making physical activity a fun and engaging family experience, educators can contribute to the child’s overall well-being and lifelong health habits.
  • Open Communication is Ongoing:Family involvement is not a one-time event; it’s a continuous process. Educators should create opportunities for ongoing communication with families through regular meetings, progress updates, or even informal chats during pick-up times. This allows families to voice concerns, ask questions, and provide feedback, ensuring the APE program remains responsive to the child’s evolving needs and the family’s circumstances.

By working together, educators and families can build bridges beyond the study and create a supportive environment that empowers children with ASD to thrive through participation in Adapted Physical Education programs.




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