Autism spectrum disorder(ASD) is a complex neuro-developmental disorder that typically appears in the first three years of life; it is the result of a neurological disorder that affects the normal functioning of the brain, affecting development in the areas of social interaction and communication (Dunn & Leitschuh, 2006). Students with autism have difficulty with social interactions, communicating, and using sensory information. There are numerous therapies dedicated to improving the communication, cognitive and motor skills of children with autism. One form of therapy for a child with a developmental disability is sports.
Allowing the child to participate in fun games will pave the way for new life experiences and at the same time further enrich motor, communication and coordination skills, as It is widely recognised that engaging in sport or physical activity not only helps to keep us fit and well, it can also increase self-esteem, develop social skills and improve mental health and general wellbeing. However, a child with autism may exhibit motor skills, fitness performance, participation behaviours, and intellectual functions that are below the expected range for a given age (Auxter, Pyfer, & Huetig, 2005). As a result, physical education teachers may feel ill-equipped to teach children with autism (Kelly & Block, 2001) and to fully include them in their general physical education (GPE) curriculum. Moreover, most physical education classes are very diverse in terms of student ability and skill and also research has shown that children with autism may be delayed in their physical development, lose movement skills, show motor clumsiness, and score poorly on fitness measures (Reid & Collier, 2002).
For these reasons, children with autism may be excluded from full participation in group activities and team sports (Schwartz, Billingsley, & McBride, 2005). Finally, although all teachers experience the challenge of controlling inappropriate student behaviour, those who teach physical education to pupils with disabilities typically face even greater challenges because children with disabilities frequently exhibit behaviours that are difficult to manage (Block, 2007; Hodge, Lieberman, & Murata, 2012; Loovis, 2011; ). For example, students with disabilities may display challenging behaviours such as aggression, defiance, talking out of turn or interrupting, and being off task. In addition, motivating these students to participate is often difficult. On top of that, PE teachers often lack sufficient training in behaviour management. From preliminary research conducted by the consortium, it was identified that only 9% of the PE teachers felt prepared to teach students with ASD and only 12% believe their training in behaviour management is adequate. Moreover, no research studies reported in the literature have examined the current status of these practices in the EU.