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An Affinity-Based Approach to Physical Activity in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Martin E. Block, Chad Nichols, Jason Bishop


Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) present unique characteristics that include a strong interest in objects or things. This strong interest is often viewed negatively as something that needs to be controlled or even targeted for elimination. In contrast, an affinity-based approach views these strong interests in a positive light—viewed as affinities, aptitudes, unique skills—that should not only be allowed but also encouraged. More importantly, the affinity-based approach employs the child’s affinities to communicate and understand the child and to expand the child’s repertoire of skills. This paper presents the affinity-based approach with application to promoting physical activity. Specific examples are presented that include using affinities to help children with ASD learn new skills such as using weight machines and cardio machines, practice and become more independent with an exercise routine, and ultimately enjoy and become a habitual exerciser.

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Autism spectrum disorder; physical activity; affinity

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