Leisure Activity Enjoyment Among Children with ASD
Activity enjoyment is a fundamental component of participation in activities. The use of child-preferred activities has long been used to promote social participation among children with ASD (Koegel, Dyer & Bell, 1987; Taylor & Fisher, 2010).
Research questions addressed were:
What are the patterns of leisure activity enjoyment for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) compared to those of typically developing (TD) children?
How do patterns of leisure activity enjoyment compare across age groups between TD children and those with ASD?
What is the relationship between severity and leisure activity enjoyment in children with ASD?
We used a case-control comparison research design to compare activity enjoyment between children with ASD and TD children. Participants consisted of 131 children (ASD = 67, TD = 64) between the ages 6 and 13 years recruited through parent and professional contacts known by the principal investigator and through parent support group meetings, group e-mail lists, newsletters for parents of children with ASD, and flyers about the study posted at sites of service providers for children with ASD. This study used the Children’s Assessment of Participation and Enjoyment (King et al., 2004), a child interview, to compare levels of leisure activity enjoyment. The Social Responsiveness Scale, 2nd Edition (SRS-2; Constantino & Gruber, 2012), a parent questionnaire, is a quantitative measure of traits associated with autism, and was used to quantify autism severity.
A within-group comparison of activity enjoyment for children with ASD was completed using descriptive statistics to rank sum activity enjoyment for each of the 55 specific activities. A Pearson product moment correlation coefficient (Portney & Watkins, 2009) was used to identify enjoyment of any of the activity categories that were correlated with SRS-2 scores for the children with ASD. Differences in activity enjoyment were compared by age group using an ANOVA to compare age groups in the TD children and those with ASD.
The TD children enjoyed formal activities and physical activities significantly more than the children with ASD. Symptom severity was negatively related to enjoyment of overall activities, formal activities, physical and social activities in children with ASD. Older children with ASD enjoyed overall, informal, recreational, and self-improvement activities significantly less than younger children, but no differences were seen across age groups in TD children. Most notable among specific activities was that children with ASD enjoyed swimming significantly more than the TD children.
Having a better understanding of preferred activities among children with ASD can help to better prepare professionals regarding potential motivators for participation in interventions and in less preferred activities. Using child preferred activities has been shown to be a valuable motivator for many activities that are less participated in and less preferred among children with ASD.